Stephen G. Cobb - Florida Criminal Defense Lawyer

I Paid A Ticket For Minor In Possession Charge So Why Do I Have A Record Of A Drug And Alcohol Problem?


Disclaimer: This article is in response to questions frequently asked of Mr. Cobb and is an unedited dictation transcript. Just like talk to text on your smartphone, there may be misspelled words or sentence fragments.

Good evening, you are watching Florida Criminal Law TV. My name is Stephen G. Cobb, your host. I have been hosting Florida Criminal Law now since the late 1990s and we are answering viewer and user questions about my favorite subject, Florida Criminal Law. So, let’s roll on into the next one. The next one is something I have unfortunately run into multiple times in my career. And this is in the category of people who think they are saving money and making things easy because hiring a lawyer is expensive and they can handle it themselves and this is the question, and by the way, I have been asked this question for decades. I have been asked this question repeatedly, so I am glad we are covering it today. And this is what it is. “I paid a ticket for a minor in possession charge 3 years ago”. Now, first of all, no, you did not pay a ticket. A ticket is an infraction that is civil in nature and does not require court appearance where you could be sentenced to jail. With minor in possession, if you are given a criminal summons notice to appear, sometimes they will cutely put a rights waiver form on the back make it look like it is no big deal to just pay a fine and you will not have to go to court and people would eat that up. And then, I would get a call and I would get an email, something like this. “I paid a ticket for a minor in possession 3 years ago but now, when employers run a background check, they say I have the criminal history for a substance abuse problem”. That is a lie. I do not have a substance abuse problem, that is not true. I was never charged with substance abuse. What do I do?

Well, what you do is you contact a lawyer, step 1, number you realize you have screwed up badly, number three, depending upon how the case was handled, that determines what is going to happen with dealing with that. If adjudication was withheld, then we can do a record seal but cannot do a record expunction. This is why you do not handle even minor crimes by yourself because you do not know what you do not know. Since you do not know what you do not know, that is why you do not have the knowledge. And even if you did, knowledge is not power. We live in a culture where people believe knowledge is power. No, it is not. Action based upon correct knowledge is very powerful. And so, once we get more background about what is going on in this particular case, if it turns out the person was not convicted, meaning they were not adjudicated guilty, then we can look at a record sealed. And it has to be sealed 10 years before it is expunged. Those nice law enforcement officers who arrested this person and gave them a ticket instead of taking them to jail and oh, conveniently, on the back of the ticket, it tells you how not to go to court and you can save money and they tell you, you do not need a lawyer, they are setting you up for this person’s exact experience where they find that they are not getting the job offers when they graduate university or college that they thought they would get. They are at the top of their class and yet people in what’s generously called the middle-third are getting better job offers and higher pay and then finally they get a job and they do not get the pay they are expecting and their career seems to be stymied, it is because they have unexpunged criminal history where they have done something like this person did and they signed a plea agreement without realizing fully that they were signing a plea agreement on a criminal case because they thought it was just a ticket. And now they are in a position where for the last two, three or more years, internet information has been accumulating and what is the employer do that they are not supposed to do, they stick that person’s name in Google and guess what shows up as the number one ranking, not their LinkedIn profile. What shows up is their arrest for a substance abuse problem and the employer does not want to hire a drug addict. Well, none of that is true. Someone had a minor in possession charge while they were on vacation while on spring break before final exams. And yet when it shows up later, it is blown up into something it is not.

So, the answer to the question is, first of all, be proactive. Stephen Covey wrote a great book about the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. I highly recommend it. You want to be proactive and if you are given a notice to appear in court or you can just sign the handy-dandy form and you will not have to go to court or hire a lawyer, you really need to talk to a lawyer because you do not want to be in a position where you are experiencing a lifetime earning’s loss of over a quarter of a million dollars, half a million dollars because of criminal history for a substance abuse problem that you really do not even have. You were just having fun on a spring break.

Disclaimer: This article is in response to questions frequently asked of Mr. Cobb and is an unedited dictation transcript. Just like talk to text on your smartphone, there may be misspelled words or sentence fragments.

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Stephen G. Cobb, Esq.

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