Informal Expungement in Hillsborough County
The consequences of a criminal conviction keep coming long after the judge’s gavel falls. On average, a felony conviction costs about $6,400 per year in lost wages and other costs, even years after the defendant’s sentence ends. These high costs quickly add up and become debilitating. Other lifelong costs of a criminal conviction, like the stigma associated with a criminal conviction, cannot be counted in dollars and cents.
Frequently, a Tampa criminal defense lawyer uses procedural and/or substantive defenses to attack the state’s evidence and reduce or eliminate these and other negative consequences. But other options are available as well. In fact, even if a solid defense isn’t available, an attorney can often keep a matter off a defendant’s permanent record. Frequently, that’s the best available result under the circumstances.
Law enforcement comes in waves. Occasionally, as during the COVID-19 pandemic, law enforcement activities drop dramatically. Then, the pendulum swings the other way, and politicians are determined to “clean up this town.”
Usually, law enforcement upticks mean more people get caught in police dragnets, especially during large-scale anti-drug and other investigations. However, the news isn’t all bad. Prosecutors don’t staff up in response to these upswings. Therefore, court prosecutors are more overworked than ever. They’re also more willing than ever to make favorable deals so they can clear their desks.
Frequently, pretrial diversion programs have very strict qualifications. However a Tampa criminal defense lawyer often convinces prosecutors to relax the rules and expand program availability.
Usually, pretrial diversion programs last about six months. Prosecutors put the matter on hold while the defendant performs community service, attends self-help classes, and completes other program requirements. If the defendant successfully completes these requirements, and more importantly doesn’t get into more legal trouble, prosecutors normally dismiss the case.
These programs are completely risk free. If the defendant doesn’t jump over all hurdles, prosecutors simply pick up where they left off.
N-Fog (No Finding Of Guilt) probation is a special kind of probation that doesn’t stain a person’s permanent record.
The defendant pleads guilty and the judge accepts that plea. But the judge doesn’t enter a finding of guilt. Instead, the judge defers that portion of the proceedings until probation ends. Then, if the defendant successfully completed probation, the judge dismisses the case. Significantly, there’s a difference between successful completion and perfect completion. Defendants with a few blemishes on their records may still be eligible for N-fog.
If prosecutors don’t offer deferred disposition, the judge could grant it during a special hearing. During an open plea, an attorney usually calls character and other witnesses to the stand so the judge gives the defendant a second chance.
In both cases (pretrial diversion and deferred disposition), the arrest record remains. If people inquire about that arrest record, we usually tell defendants to say “I hired a lawyer and the lawyer took care of it.”
Work With a Diligent Hillsborough County Attorney
A criminal charge is not the same thing as a criminal conviction. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense lawyer in Tampa, contact the OA Law Firm. We routinely handle matters in Pinellas County and nearby jurisdictions.