What Is Community Control And How Does It Work In Florida?Criminal Defense
In a general sense, the phrase “community control” may refer to several kinds of criminal penalties that are imposed on convicted criminal offenders as alternatives to incarceration. Community control could refer to probation, work release, house arrest, or other kinds of alternative sentencing. More precisely, however, what does “community control” mean when it’s part of a criminal sentence in the state of Florida?
Florida judges may place convicted criminal offenders under electronic surveillance or house arrest – that is, under community control – as an alternative to jail or prison. According to the Florida Department of Corrections website, “The Community Control supervision program was created as a diversion to incarceration or imprisonment; therefore it is an intensive supervision program where you are confined to your home unless you are working, attending school, performing public service hours, participating in treatment or another special activity that has been approved in advance….”
Tampa criminal defense attorney Robin Fuson explains that community control is, “basically house arrest,” and there are two types in Florida. Under the first type of community control, a convicted offender’s “schedule must be provided” to a community control officer in advance. “Any special circumstances must be approved, such as a visit to their attorney.” Attorney Fuson adds that the other type of community control in Florida “carries the same conditions but defendant wears a GPS monitor. If the defendant goes somewhere not approved, they’re violated.”
WHICH OFFENDERS MAY QUALIFY FOR COMMUNITY CONTROL?
The Community Control supervision program in the state of Florida is the largest in the United States. The Department of Corrections says that community control is “a form of intensive supervised house arrest in the community, including surveillance on weekends and holidays, administered by officers with limited caseloads. It is an individualized program in which the freedom of the offender is restricted within the community, home or non-institutional residential placement, and specified sanctions are imposed and enforced.”
Under Florida law, who may qualify for community control? Probation and parole violators with technical or misdemeanor violations may qualify for community control, and offenders found guilty of non-capital felonies, but who cannot be placed on regular probation, may in some cases also be eligible for community control.
Community control is more severe than conventional or regular probation. It is stringently supervised house arrest. An offender is restricted to his or her home except for work, school, court-ordered counseling or treatment, community service, or an activity that is approved in advance by the offender’s community control officer.
WHAT ARE THE BASIC RULES OF COMMUNITY CONTROL IN FLORIDA?
Community control emphasizes an offender’s personal responsibility and accountability while offering a practical alternative to incarceration. The offender must comply with the conditions of community control and stay out of additional legal trouble. He or she must meet weekly with the community control officer, follow that officer’s instructions, acquire permission to travel, and report any changes in residence or employment.
In Florida, when an offender is placed under community control, that offender cannot leave his or her home to visit friends or family members or to go to dinner, the movies, concerts, parties, sports events, or similar gatherings or activities.
If the offender lives in a mobile home park, condominium, or apartment complex, the offender is confined strictly to his or her residence, which does not include a swimming pool area, picnicking area, or other shared recreational facilities. Even permission to go grocery shopping must be requested and approved in advance, and offenders need to keep their shopping receipts so that their trips can be verified.
When a convicted offender is placed under community control, he or she must strictly adhere to all of the terms and conditions of community control as ordered by the court. In Florida, violations of community control are handled like probation violations. If an offender violates probation or the terms of community control, the court may revoke the community control and place the offender in custody.
In Florida, an offender sentenced to community control must meet each week with his or her community control officer. Each week, the offender must fill out an Offender Schedule and Daily Activity Log for the upcoming week and have it approved. The offender should also be ready to provide an hour-by-hour account of his or her activities during the previous week to ensure that there was no variation from that week’s approved schedule.
HOW DOES ELECTRONIC MONITORING WORK?
Some offenders under community control in Florida are electronically monitored, 24 hours a day every day, by private contractors. If an offender violates a curfew or otherwise deviates from his or her approved schedule, the contractor immediately informs the appropriate community control authorities.
If an emergency medical situation arises, the offender must contact his or her community control officer as soon as possible after obtaining the necessary medical assistance. Documentation will be required for a medical emergency or any similar incident.
Of course, in Florida and in every other state, being charged with a crime is not the equivalent of being convicted, and while community control may be preferable to jail or prison, if you are accused of a crime and you’re innocent, you have every right to plead not guilty and to ask a jury for a not guilty verdict.
Additionally, an experienced criminal defense attorney may be able to find flaws in the state’s case against you, and in some cases, have the charge reduced or dismissed. Every case is different, so anyone facing criminal charges will need a defense attorney’s personalized, specific legal advice regarding his or her own particular situation.
Offenders who are already under community control in Florida can violate the terms and conditions of community control by committing a “substantive” violation or a “technical” violation. A substantive violation is when an offender is charged with committing a crime while under community control. A technical violation is any other breach of the sentence’s terms and conditions – missing a meeting with the community control officer, for example, or missing an appointment for court-ordered treatment or counseling.
For either type of community control violation, a warrant may be issued for the offender’s arrest, and the court may or may not amend or revoke community control and order jail or prison. Anyone who is charged with a violation of community control in the greater Tampa Bay area will need to be represented by an experienced Tampa criminal defense attorney who routinely represents clients at violation of community control hearings.
Community control officers also assist the offenders they supervise by helping them access community resources, government programs, and private agencies that offer help with employment, education, drug and alcohol treatment and counseling, housing, financial counseling and assistance, and more. Setting some goals, working diligently to achieve those goals, and communicating honestly with the community control officer are the keys to successfully meeting the terms and conditions of community control