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For Some Florida Defendants, Deferred Prosecution can Provide a Get Out of Jail Free Card

Everyone makes occasional mistakes. While no one can turn back time, the Florida criminal justice system can come close for some people. If they meet certain criteria — and if the prosecution is willing — they may qualify for a diversion program or deferred prosecution and eventually have their charges dismissed after successful completion of certain obligations.

This is exactly what happened to a former aide to a past Florida governor. The aide was arrested in 2011, accused of illegally taping a conversation between the governor and the chief of staff and then distributing it to a reporter. According to an August 21, 2013 article published by The Associated Press, the former aide reached a deferred prosecution agreement with the prosecutor. If she avoids legal trouble over the next 12 months and performs 50 hours of community service, the charges will be dropped.

Deferred prosecution is not available for all criminal cases, of course, but it provides a potential alternative in situations where the individual :

  • Is a First time, non-violent offenders , or has only a minor criminal history
  • Is actively cooperating with law enforcement

Has sufficient mitigating circumstances such as significant community involvement or educational and vocational opportunities.

The choice to negotiate a deferred prosecution lies solely in the hands of the prosecution. However, under the right circumstances, experienced Florida criminal defense attorneys can use background information about their clients to convince prosecutors to take this route, even when their clients do not plead guilty to any of the charges. By agreeing to stay clean for a pre-defined period and possibly meet other requirements, some defendants can retain their freedom while avoiding a mark on their criminal records.

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