Across the country, especially in South Florida, both jails and prisons are overcrowded causing a heavy burden on taxpayers and correctional staff. The good news, however, is that there is an evergrowing recognition of the fact that harsh penalties such as long-term prison sentences, especially for non-violent drug offenders, are inefficient. Despite Florida's toughness, some counties such as Palm Beach County offer sentencing alternatives. While not every defendant is eligible for a sentencing alternative, an experienced West Palm Beach defense attorney can carefully assess your case to determine whether alternative sentencing may be an option for your pending case. To learn if you or a loved one is eligible for alternative sentencing, contact us or call us at (561) 671-5995 today.
Probation in Florida is one of the most common alternatives to jail or prison time. Probation allows the offender to continue living in their community in lieu of serving hard time. As long as a case does not involve mandatory sentencing required by law, judges can rely on their own discretion to decide on an alternative sentence.
Examples of Florida mandatory minimum sentences for first-time offenders include:
- Aggravated assault with a firearm
- Armed burglary (including breaking and entering a vehicle)
- Felon possession of a firearm
- Possession of cocaine, heroin, or oxycodone
- Possession and cultivation of marijuana with the intent to distribute
Examples of Florida mandatory minimum sentences for repeat offenders include:
- Repeat murder or homicide
- Repeat first-degree felony
- Repeat second-degree felony
- Repeat first-degree misdemeanor
- Repeat second-degree misdemeanor
House arrest, also known as community sentencing, is another sentencing alternative often used in Florida that allows the defendant to live in their own house abiding by court rules. House arrest differs from probation in that the defendant will wear an ankle monitor allowing for limited movement such as leaving for work and returning home immediately leaving absolutely no room for error. Just like probation, house arrest is a privilege and can be revoked if broken.
Drug and Mental Health Courts
In cases where defendants are being charged with a first-time drug offense and are deemed low risk by the judge, they may qualify for probation and a substance abuse treatment program. Qualifying and completing a drug court program in Florida may lead to a reduction in charges, or the charges being dropped altogether. Usually, an experienced West Palm Beach drug defense attorney can fight for this option. Participating in a Florida drug court program means you agree to routine drug testing and monitoring, regularly scheduled case reviews, and attending drug abuse treatment associations/counseling.
In addition to drug court, Palm Beach and Broward County have mental health options available for those who may be undiagnosed and untreated for mental illness which contributed to their incarceration. It is both more humane and cost-effective to provide those with potential mental illness(s) the treatment they need rather than allowing them to remain in the State prison system without support.
Additionally, there are veteran treatment courts in over 27 states, Florida being one of them. The veteran's court model is based upon the normal drug or mental health treatment courts. Veteran treatment courts in Florida can defer punishments like the other courts as their prior/current service can lead to substance abuse or mental health issues related to their criminal misconduct.
Similar to drug court, there are diversion programs available to first-time DUI offenders in Palm Beach County. A DUI diversion program gives first-time DUI offenders a chance to avoid jail and potentially lower their DUI charges to reckless driving. Doing so allows for the ability to mark "no" when asked if you have ever been convicted of a crime. A Florida DUI defense attorney can help you decide if a diversion program is right for you. Even if you are eligible, you may not want to accept it as there could be several reasons your case can be dismissed, nolle prosequi, or even found not guilty.
In minor cases, a judge may order a defendant to serve community service as a form of punishment intended to benefit the community that has been harmed by an offender's crime. Judges have the authority to decide if and what kind of community service to order for the defendant.
West Palm Beach Alternative Sentencing Lawyer
The Law Offices of Matthew Konecky have been protecting clients' rights in South Florida for over 18 years, striving to bring each case to its' best possible conclusion. To discuss our process, or how we can aid in achieving an alternative sentence for you or your loved one, contact us or call us at (561) 671-5995 today.