Table of Contents
- Florida Visitor’s Arrest, Resolution, Expungement
- Understanding Your Rights and Goals
- Getting Back Home
- Arrest Resolutions for Florida Visitors
- Expunging or Sealing Your Criminal Record After Resolving Your Florida Arrest
- How Much Will It Cost
Florida had over 113 million visitors in 2016. That’s a lot (considering the state’s population is just under 21 million). Unfortunately, not everyone who visited returned home without first being arrested.
I have been a criminal defense lawyer since 1995 and I represent people who have been arrested while visiting Florida on holiday. I also help people from all over the world seal or expunge that arrest.
Florida Visitor’s Arrest, Resolution, Expungement
Traveling is fun but it can often be stressful too. Money issues are often a cause for stress and the cost of traveling can add to that. Stress can cause us to act irrationally and before we know it, we have done something we regret. Visitors to Florida need to understand the rights that apply to them when they are arrested.
- Right to be represented by counsel (Hire an Attorney)
- Right to a Trial (means you can initially enter a plea of Not Guilty)
- Right to Confront Witnesses you can question the veracity of the charges (Hire a Lawyer)
And what I like to say, the Right to be treated equally in court when resolving your case. This means you should not receive a harsher penalty because you decided to accept responsibility immediately thinking you had no other choice or because you live outside the State.
Understanding Your Rights and Goals
You may have done something wrong and you may think the best way to deal with it is to just admit it. However, this can be a huge mistake. Entering a plea (other than Not Guilty) without advice from counsel can lead to irreparable harm that can last a lifetime, especially if you are a foreign visitor.
What Your Goal Should be When You Have made a Mistake
If you are not a lawyer, odds are you do not understand what is happening after you have been arrested. It may seem clear – arrested, see a judge, the prosecutor makes an offer to settle the case, you decide to accept it and the case is resolved; you go home.
Trying to figure out what happens if you do not accept it can be daunting. Daunting enough for you to not consider it and that could be a mistake.
What Visitors Get Arrested For
Florida visitors who get arrested typically get charged with minor offenses such as domestic arguing (violence), theft (shoplifting), DUI/drugs (marijuana not legal in Florida), criminal mischief (destruction of property) or the over charged resisting officer without violence.
Most of these offenses have viable defenses that can result in the charges being dismissed. Even if they are not dismissed, the disposition should allow you to eventually expunge or seal the record so that public access and reporting of the event is minimized and stopped.
Initial Offers Typically Do Not Get Worse
If you decide to initially plea “Not Guilty” you should understand that the prosecutor typically does not look upon this as a rejection of the offer. Hiring a lawyer can result in a dismissal or a better resolution of the case. Moreover, the lawyer should ensure your ability to eventually expunge or seal the record.
Contacting A Lawyer after You enter a Not Guilty Plea
When you enter a plea of not guilty the court will set conditions for your release. Most minor offenses are given pretrial release without having to post a bond. You can also bond out before seeing a judge and that is typically monetary.
After your release, you will then have the time to contact and hire a lawyer to handle your case. Representing out-of-state clients is a major part of my criminal practice. Many attorneys in the Central Florida area also represent people in this situation because of all the Theme Parks and surrounding venues. For this reason, you should feel confident the attorney you hire will know how to handle the case for you while you return home.
One of the things you need to ask is if the attorney you are thinking of hiring will also try to ensure that your case can be either sealed or expunged after it has been resolved.
Getting Back Home
The first hearing after your arrest will be the arraignment. This is when the prosecutor must announce what charges are filed, if any, and the court tells you what those charges are. If the arraignment is scheduled for after you were suppose to return home, an attorney can waive your appearance in the most common situations. You won’t have to be there and, so long as there is no restrictions on travel, you will be able to return home.
The Court Process Can Take Months
The procedure of the court can take months, even for minor offenses. An attorney can handle all of that for you and keep you updated on the progress, discovery, and all plea negotiations. For minor offenses, even if you end up entering a plea of guilty (or no contest), your attorney can do this for you without you having to return.
Arrest Resolutions for Florida Visitors
The critical issue will always be how to resolve your case. Your attorney should advise you of the best courses of action. Keep in mind the following factors:
- Will you be convicted of a crime, permanently marking your criminal history?
- Will this affect your ability to re-enter the United States (if from another country)?
- Will the disposition of your case affect anything in your life now? Job? Where you live? Etc.?
Expunging or Sealing Your Criminal Record After Resolving Your Florida Arrest
One of the most important considerations you must understand is whether or not the resolution of your case will allow you to seal or expunge the record. Sealing or expunging your record is the first step to keeping this out of the public’s eye. This also means keeping it from your employer, family and friends, off job applications, etc. See, What is an Expungement.
How Can You Expunge Your Florida Record (From Far Away)
Even though you may live in another State or even another country, you can still have an arrest sealed or expunged so long as you qualify. Florida visitors can take advantage of the same laws as Florida residents. Although people try to do this themselves, attempting to do this from a distance can be daunting.
Will You Have to Travel Back to Florida
People who live out-of-state rarely have to return to Florida to complete this process. In the last 20 years, we have never had to have someone travel from outside of Florida. That does not mean it will never happen. If the Court requires a hearing and your presence, then arrangements will have to be made, however I have yet to have this happen.
Will The Distance Cause Unnecessary Delays
As noted above, the use of technology mitigates any delays due to distance. Our experience also reduces most delays.
How Much Will It Cost
The cost of defending you from criminal accusations varies with the nature of the offense. You should immediately contact an attorney after the arrest and discuss the situation, including legal fees.
The cost of sealing or expunging a criminal record for a person who lives out-of-state is exactly the same for a person who lives locally. Keeping the cost down for everyone is our goal and made much easier with today’s technology. This can be started after the criminal case has been resolved and it does not matter if we did not represent you originally for the initial arrest.
For More Information Emailed to You
Please note the date this article was published. The information listed above is subject to change as changes are made to the laws. The information written above is meant only to be for Informational Purposes Only and is not legal advice.
If any corrections or errors are found please notify me as soon as possible.
Eric Dirga has been a member of the Florida Bar since 1995. His office is Eric J. Dirga, PA, located in Orlando, FL. He provides legal representation for Criminal Defense in the Central Florida area and representation for expungement and sealing of records throughout the state of Florida.
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