Florida Sentencing Blog

A discussion of contemporary law, policy, and practice in Florida criminal sentencing.

Transfer From a County for Plea, Sentence, or Participation in a Problem-Solving Court

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Hon. William H. Burgess, III, B.C.S.

A defendant arrested or held in a county other than that in which an indictment or information is pending against him or her may state in writing that he or she wishes to plead guilty or nolo contendere, to waive trial in the county in which the indictment or information is pending, and to consent to disposition of the case in the county in which the defendant was arrested or is held, subject to the approval of the prosecuting attorney of the court in which the indictment or information is pending.  Upon receipt of the defendant’s statement and the written approval of the prosecuting attorney, the clerk of the court in which the indictment or information is pending must transmit the papers in the proceeding, or certified copies thereof, to the clerk of the court of competent jurisdiction for the county in which the defendant is held, and the prosecution must continue in that county upon the information or indictment originally filed. In the event a fine is imposed upon the defendant in that county, two-thirds thereof must be returned to the county in which the indictment or information was originally filed.1

A defendant arrested on a warrant issued upon a complaint in a county other than the county of arrest may state in writing that he or she wishes to plead guilty or nolo contendere, to waive trial in the county in which the warrant was issued, and to consent to disposition of the case in the county in which the defendant was arrested, subject to the approval of the prosecuting attorney of the court in which the indictment or information is pending.  Upon receipt of the defendant’s statement and the written approval of the prosecuting attorney, and upon the filing of an information or the return of an indictment, the clerk of the court from which the warrant was issued is required to transmit the papers in the proceeding, or certified copies thereof, to the clerk of the court of competent jurisdiction in the county in which the defendant was arrested, and the prosecution must continue in that county upon the information or indictment originally filed.2

If, after the proceeding has been transferred pursuant to subsection 910.035(1) or (2), the defendant pleads not guilty, the clerk must return the papers to the court in which the prosecution was commenced, and the proceeding must be restored to the docket of that court. The defendant’s statement that he or she wishes to plead guilty or nolo contendere can not be used against the defendant.3

For the purpose of initiating a transfer under section 910.035, a person who appears in response to a summons must be treated as if he or she had been arrested on a warrant in the county of such appearance.4

Participation in a Problem-Solving Court

Specialized, problem-solving courts are intended to address chronic social and legal problems that are resistant to resolution in conventional courts, and to relieve overcrowding in jails and prisons by providing alternative to incarceration for certain types of recurring offenses that are non-violent or involve only minor violence.  In 1989, Florida created the first drug court in the United States in Miami-Dade County.  Other types of problem-solving courts subsequently followed, using the drug model, and were implemented to assist individuals with a range of problems such as drug addiction, mental illness, domestic violence, and homelessness.  Problem-solving courts involve a team of justice system stakeholders including judges, case managers, prosecutors, defense attorneys, treatment and rehabilitation professionals, law enforcement and corrections personnel, who work in a non-adversarial manner to link the participant to treatment and closely monitor the participants’ compliance.  There are more than 3,700 problem-solving courts in the United States.5 For purposes of subsection 910.035(5)(a), Florida Statutes, the term “problem-solving court” means a drug court pursuant to sections 948.01, 948.06, 948.08, 948.16, 948.20; a veterans’ court pursuant to sections 394.47891, 948.08, 948.16, or 948.21; or a mental health court.6

Any person eligible for participation in a problem-solving court shall, upon request by the person or a court, have the case transferred to a county other than that in which the charge arose if the person agrees to the transfer, the authorized representative of the trial court consults with the authorized representative of the problem-solving court in the county to which transfer is desired, and both representatives agree to the transfer.7

If all parties agree to the transfer as required by section 910.035(5)(b), the trial court must enter a transfer order directing the clerk to transfer the case to the county which has accepted the defendant into its problem solving court.8  When transferring a pretrial problem-solving court case, the transfer order must include a copy of the probable cause affidavit; any charging documents in the case; all reports, witness statements, test results, evidence lists, and other documents in the case; the defendant’s mailing address and telephone number; and the defendant’s written consent to abide by the rules and procedures of the receiving county’s problem-solving court.9  When transferring a post-adjudacatory problem-solving court case, the transfer order must include a copy of the charging documents in the case; the final disposition; all reports, test results, and other documents in the case; the defendant’s mailing address and telephone number; and the defendant’s written consent to abide by the rules and procedures of the receiving county’s problem-solving court.10  After the transfer takes place, the receiving clerk is required to set the matter for a hearing before the problem-solving court in the receiving jurisdiction to ensure the defendant’s entry into the problem-solving court.11

Upon successful completion of the problem-solving court program, the jurisdiction to which the case has been transferred must dispose of the case.  If the defendant does not complete the problem-solving court program successfully, the jurisdiction to which the case has been transferred is required to dispose of the case within the guidelines of the Criminal Punishment Code.12

FOOTNOTES

1§ 910.035(1), Fla. Stat.

2§ 910.035(2), Fla. Stat.

3§ 910.035(3), Fla. Stat.

4§ 910.035(4), Fla. Stat.

5See, http://www.flcourts.org/resources-and-services/court-improvement/problem-solving-courts/index.stml; Greg Berman and John Feinblatt, Problem-Solving Courts: A Brief Primer, Center for Court Innovation, found at http://www.courtinnovation.org/pdf/prob_solv_courts.pdf, originally published in Law and Policy, Volume 23, Number 2 (2001).

6§ 910.035(5)(a), Fla. Stat.

7§ 910.035(5)(b), Fla. Stat.

8§ 910.035(5)(c), Fla. Stat.

9§ 910.035(5)(d)1., Fla. Stat.

10§ 910.035(5)(d)2., Fla. Stat.

11§ 910.035(5)(e), Fla. Stat.

12§ 910.035(5)(f), Fla. Stat.

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