My question involves criminal law for the state of: Florida
In late 2009, 2 police officers spoke to a person who claimed that I had damaged a vehicle in their possession. They did not own the vehicle. I later learned, the officers refused to file charges due to a lack of evidence.
A week later, a detective showed up at my door, arrested me, and stated he had probable cause to do so, in relation to this damaged vehicle. Apparently, when the first attempt to blame me failed, thay had another friend say; "yeah, I heard him say he did it!"....(Which was a blantent lie.)
I was then arrested, and charged with a 3rd degree felony...Criminal Mischief over $1000.00. I bonded out, and recieved legal consultation from a Public defender who informed me I needant hire an attorney, the State had NO evidence, and we go to trial...Not Guilty!
After 6 months of pre-trials, rescheduled hearings, and several attempts by The States Attorneys to get me to take a plea....(which I refused) I finally recieved a trial date for March 1st, 2010, at 9am.
I showed up for court early with my wife, and 1 of our 3 children, and waited for my name to be called as instructed.
After 3.5 hours, I still hadn't seen my Public Defender, nor had my name been called. Anxious to end this 6 month nightmare, I approached another Public Defender, and asked; "Have you seen Ryan _____?" (My appointed Public Defender)
He stated; "No, Ryan's in another trial all day, can I help you?"
I showed him my paperwork, which clearly stated I was in the right place, on the right day, etc...
He asked me to hold on while he checked the court docket. Minutes later he returned stating; "That's odd, your not on the docket. Any number of reaons could cause this; the State dropped the charges, is looking for more evidence and has rescheduled the trial date, or the judge threw it out!...in any case Ryan should have contacted you to inform you that you didn't need to be here today."
"O.k., so now what do I do?"; I asked him
He said; "well since your already here, I suggest you exit the courthouse, go to the Public Defenders office in Bld B., 2nd floor, and leave a message for Ryan that you were here, and to contact you in regard to your case."
Easy enough. I did just that. (Never called me though)
The next day March 2nd, I called his direct line, left a message that it was urgent he call me back. (Never did!)
On March 9th, 2010 (my daughter's 14th Birthday) I was arrested at my work place for a "Failure to Appear" and detained for 43 days without bond!....for having missed my trial on March 2nd, 2010....rediculous!!!!
My wife had spoken with Ryan on 2 occassions while I was held in jail. Both times he told her that he had scheduled appointments, and would be meeting with me in jail, and that he was confident he would have my bond reinstated with a week.
43 days later, I was bought to court in a blue jumpsuit and pink handcuffs. I hadn't seen Ryan, nor spoken to him since pre-trial, where again he laughed and said; "The State has nothing, this is an open and shut case...no evidence means...."Not Guilty"
Yet, this man had the nerve to look me in the eye in that courtroom, and say; "I'm really sorry, I know there was a communication issue which caused all this grief for you."
He proceeded to list my options;
1.) He ask the judge for a bond hearing, but that it would take roughly 2-4 weeks to get, by which I'd be stuck in jail. He added that if we go that route, the judge may refuse to set bond, and I could be stuck in jail until a new trial be set. (For up to 6months-1year)
2.) If you want to take it back to trial (which I did!) he said, it could take anywhere from 6 months to a year, by which if the judge maintained a ruling of no bond, I would be forced to remain in jail.
3.) We accept a plea bargain from the States Attorney. Right now they are offering you 1 year probation, an Anger Management Course, A Drug & Alcohol evaluation, Court Costs, restitution ($1,567.00) and any investigation fees. Oh, and Ajudication withheld...whatever the hell that is?
I was angry! I said, "NO WAY!!!....43 days I've rotted in that cesspool and this is the best you can do?"
He told me, "look we have to act fast, or you risk being in there another month while I schedule a "Bond Hearing"
The charge I was faced with was Criminal Mischief over $1000, which is a 3rd degree felony. I said, look there is no way, I can accept having a felony on my record after all this.
He responded; "O.k., if I can get the State to reduce the charge to a 1st degree misdemeanor, will you consider accepting their plea?"
I foolishly agreed. My wife and kids needed me. I had never been to jail, and with the options he gave me, it seemed logical at the time!
Only now, I am suffering financially, have undergone huge amounts of stress pyschologically, and now I am showing physical signs (ulcers) and bouts of anxiety, as a direct result of the pressures this 2year nightmare has caused.
All-in-all, there was NEVER any evidence to support this punishment, and I feel this entire event is both unconstitutional, and reaks of injustice.
Clearly, if I was "guilty" I would've just taken the plea from the get go. Secondly, why would I go through all the trouble of complying with the court by showing up at every scheduled hearing...including my March 1st Trial date?
Honestly, I was willing to suck it up for my family until last Friday when I recieved a "Post-Card" type message from the Clerk of Courts which reads;
"You have failed to make your schedule payments. Failure to make your scheduled payments or attend the next session of collections court could result in a writ of bodily attachment. Also, your Driver's License will be suspended."
Here I thought I had to the end of my probation to pay the court costs, but apparently in the sea of shit they've had me swimming in I lost track!
Anyway, I called to find out when the next session of collections court would be, considering that option to buy a little time. I learned the last date for 2009 case was on Dec. 16th, 2010...how convienant, I received the letter Dec. 17th.
Meanwhile, I paid the back due balance to avoid my arrest or D.L being suspended.
Then, I decided to look up my case in the computer using the information on the post-card.
It clearly states my charge;
CRIMINAL MISCHIEF over $200 under $1000. Which by Florida state law constitutes a 1st degree misdemeanor, as we agreed in the plea bargain.
However, the status reads; 3rd Degree Felony?
Venturing through the finite detailed bit of information, I stumbled upon another find;
On March 23rd, 2010 (while I was in jail) a motion to reinstate bond was filed
On March 29th, 2010 The judge recieved the motion
On March 30th, 2010 The judge ordered the bond be reinstated
Now I don't know the law, because I don't commit crimes, but I find it odd my Public Defender misled me to think I'd be stuck in jail waiting to see if the judge might reinstate the bond, when in actuallity....he already did!
Also, my wife checked along with my employer everday for the 43 days I was in jail, ready to post my bond so I could return to my family and my job, only to be denied, as no bond amount ever appeared.
I am a law obiding citizen, whom until now had no quarrel with the justice system, but now I feel something can, and must be done on my part to correct this injustice. My kids have suffered, as has my wife, and I literally have physical conditions I believe route directly to the stress this situation has caused. Heck, forget about the time I lost from work, the debts that accrued while being in jail, the time loss of work to deal with all this nonsense (which exceeds $10,000.00....over an accusation I put a $200 scratch on a car worth maybe $2500) Again, a car by which the owner didn't press charges, a loser he loaned it to did....(who's currently on probation for credit card fraud)
Is that even legal?...wasn't even his car
Ultimately, I need some advice.
What can I do?
Everyone says; "Consult a lawyer, sue the Public Defender, and fight for a retrial!"
Honestly, I need to know can that be an achievable goal?
In closing, I apologize for the blow-by-blow details, but there really was no easy way to describe the leve lof ignorance I've witnessed and endured over nearly 2 years now.
I do not want sympathy or pity! (((I WANT JUSTICE!!!!)))
After all, I have 3 teenagers to wit, I am attempting to lead by example. I have NEVER been in any trouble with the law prior to this bs. Aside from traffic issues some 15 years ago. Honestly, how can I tell them to have faith in a system, if they see what the system has cost them, and done to them by unjustly punishing me?
Again, sorry for the lenght....but I am fed up, pissed off, and literally sick to my stomach over this charade of ignorance.