Proposed legislation seeks to make the current probation violation process stricter for repeat offenders accused of violating their probation. If signed into law, it would allow Florida law enforcement to hold the accused person in jail for probation violations when they have multiple felony convictions on their criminal record.
In Florida’s present probation system, the person on supervised probation can post bond for the crime he is accused of committing while on probation and his possible probation violation may not be factored in when the judge sets bail. At a later time, usually after a few weeks, a judge will typically review the evidence and issue a warrant for the probation violations.
The proposed bill would allow any repeat felon who allegedly violates their probation to be held for up to 10 days. The judge would be able to issue an expedited violation of probation order before the accused makes his first appearance on the new charges.
Why do Lawmakers Want the Change?
In 2008, a Fort Myers Police Officer named Andrew Widman was killed by a repeat felon, Abel Arango, who was on probation. Arango had been arrested for drug trafficking a few months earlier, but had posted bail before a warrant for violating probation had been issued. Widman responded to a domestic violence call and was shot and killed by Arango.
Widmer’s death was an awful tragedy, but such scenarios often lead to emotionally based lawmaking. Florida already has overcrowded jails, and passage of the Widman law would certainly boost their population and could punish those on probation for a violation they didn’t commit.
Additionally, law enforcement already has a similar tool to keep those accused of violating probation incarcerated. Florida Statute 948.06 allows “any law enforcement officer who is aware of the probationary or community control status of the probationer or offender in community control or any parole or probation supervisor may arrest or request any county or municipal law enforcement officer to arrest such probationer or offender without warrant wherever found and return him or her to the court granting such probation or community control.” Clearly this statute allows a law enforcement officer to detain a person of accused of violating their probation from bonding out of a new offense.
The Widman Act has failed to achieve passage the past two years, but its sponsors are hopeful that it will be signed into law in 2011. Regardless of the bill’s status, those accused of probation violations need a reputable Florida criminal defense attorney to protect their rights.