There seems to be a new trend popping up in Orlando, Winter Park and the rest of Florida. Citations are being issued to people accused of crimes, versus the more common arrest them or giving them a notice to appear for court. These Citations allow the person charged to pay a fine instead of going to court. At first blush, the criminal citation seems like a good idea. You can go to the Clerk, pay a fine, avoid hiring a lawyer, avoid seeing the judge, and get out of going to court. However, the problem is that the Citation may not even be legal. The Citation does not advise you of your right to a lawyer, your right to contest your case, the fact that you could be deported, the right to appeal, the right to contest any unlawful conduct by the police, and many other rights you
have under the Florida and State Constitution.
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Once you pay the citation, you have a criminal record and a criminal charge that is available for the public to see. You can hire a lawyer to seal the citation charge, but it will never be a hundred percent sealed from public view. If you are a first offender and qualify for a diversion program, you will lose the opportunity to get the charge dropped as you will never have the opportunity to get the state to drop the charge. Unfortunately, the State is using the citation to save money and resources for the court system, but it in fact is not always in your best interest, especially if you are a first offender who has never been in trouble with the law.
In theory, you can get a citation for marijuana possession, a citation for theft, a citation for trespass and many other misdemeanors. If you get a citation or ticket for a criminal charge, contact an attorney who can sit down and go over your rights with you in detail and determine if you want to:
- Just pay the fine
- Contest the citation for the criminal charge in court or
- Try to get into the diversion program.
If you have a bright future ahead of you, please make sure you go over your rights that are not stated on the citation with a lawyer and determine what your best course of action is.