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Police Officers Arrest Man With Eighty-Five Priors


A man with seventy prior felony arrests and fifteen prior misdemeanor arrests is in custody after a Flagler County Sheriff’s deputy pulled him over on a routine stop.

During an initial investigation, the deputy noticed that the temporary license tag didn’t match the make and model of the car the 36-year-old man was driving. Upon closer inspection, the deputy saw that a fake Florida tag was taped over a South Carolina tag. The car had been reported stolen from Daufuskie Island, South Carolina. Then, as they searched the vehicle, deputies found a roll of double-sided tape in the center console, a purse belonging to a woman from Clay County, Florida, who told police her car was broken into earlier that day, two laptops, and four cell phones.

Flagler County Sheriff Rick Staly called the man a “dirtbag” who “made the mistake of driving through Flagler County.”

Direct Effects of a Criminal Record

Under the rules of evidence, a prior criminal record isn’t admissible to prove guilt during trial. Jurors must decide cases based on what the defendant allegedly did during the course of a crime, not what s/he did earlier. For the same reason, other character evidence is also usually inadmissible to prove guilt.

However, a criminal record might be admissible for other purposes. For example, if Jim calls a character witness, the prosecutor can ask the character witness a question like “Did you know that Jim is a convicted child molester?”

The judge usually tells jurors about the law on this point, which is that jurors cannot consider such testimony as evidence of Jim’s guilt. But, to borrow a phrase, the law doesn’t change another’s mind when all they see at the hiring time is the line on the color bar. In other words, jurors may take the judge’s direction to heart, or they may not.

So, a Tampa criminal defense attorney always thinks twice before calling character witnesses, and any other witnesses for that matter, to the stand.

Criminal records are also admissible for sentencing purposes. That includes post-trial sentencing hearings and pretrial plea negotiations. Recency and relevancy are usually the keys. If the conviction is more than about ten years old or it’s for an unrelated crime, like a prior drug possession conviction in a current assault case, the conviction doesn’t have as much effect.

Collateral Effects

Prior convictions have some additional effects, both in the law enforcement world and in the everyday world.

Usually, when detectives investigate crimes, they start with people who live in the area and have criminal records. There’s a presumption that such individuals were either involved in the crime or know something about it. Quite understandably, most people don’t want police officers poking around their homes and asking questions, or worse yet, they don’t want to be hauled in for questioning.

Additionally, prior criminal records affect employment prospects. Sometimes, employers have an economic reason to ask questions in this area. For example, many insurance companies won’t cover people with prior DUIs. More frequently, however, employers believe that people with criminal records make bad choices and would therefore be bad workers.

Many cities and counties in Tampa Bay have a “ban the box” law. Employers in these jurisdictions can’t ask about criminal records during screening interviews. But they can ask about them later.

Cleaning Your Record

If you have eighty-five priors on your rap sheet, there’s not much any Tampa criminal defense attorney can do to clean your record. If you only have one or two priors, that’s different.

Several types of expungement or sealing are available in Florida. Basically, expungement erases criminal histories. That includes arrest and conviction records. Sealing is basically burying criminal records where only the police, the courts, and a few other entities, mostly licensing agencies, can find them. Moreover, judges have almost unlimited discretion when it comes to informally sealing conviction records.

Believe it or not, executive pardon is a good option in many cases. The request must simply show some extenuating circumstances which jive with the current governor’s political agenda. Additionally, the older the conviction, the more likely a pardon becomes.

Contact a Thorough Hillsborough County Attorney

A criminal charge is not the same thing as a criminal conviction. For a free consultation with an experienced Tampa criminal defense lawyer, contact the OA Law Firm. We routinely handle matters throughout the Sunshine State.


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