Debra Lafave the teacher that made headlines for having sex with a student was back in the news recently. She had asked the criminal court to terminate her probation early. Originally, she was sentenced to 10 years probation and had completed six years of that probation.
Florida Statute 948.05 provides that:
A criminal court may at any time cause a probationer or offender in community control to appear before it to be admonished or commended, and, when satisfied that its action will be for the best interests of justice and the welfare of society, it may discharge the probationer or offender in community control from further supervision.
This section allows a probationer to terminate their probation early. As a general rule, even though the statute states “at any time”, the courts require that you complete at least half your term of probation before considering "early termination". You must have all special conditions of your probation completed and all monies owed paid in full. This includes paying all restitution to a victim of the crime, all court costs, completing all community service hours, drug treatment, etc.
In Ms. Lafave’s case, the circuit court granted her request to terminate her probation early. The prosecutor disagreed because the original plea agreement stated there would be “no early termination” of her probation. The State Attorney appealed the case to the Second District Court of Appeals which is also the appellate court that governs Polk County courts.
The Second District Court of Appeal reversed the circuit court and reinstated Ms. Lafave’s probation. This means that she is back on probation and must report to a probation officer. If she violates her probation in any way, she could face prison time. The 2nd DCA ruled that Ms. Lafave entered into a contract with the prosecutor and agreed to not seek early termination of probation. The 2nd DCA held that she should not get the benefit of the plea bargain (staying out of prison when she scored a prison sentence under the Florida Sentencing Guidelines) and then not honor the plea agreement at a later date. Florida courts have routinely recognized that circuit courts lack discretion to modify sentences previously imposed pursuant to plea agreements.
The Florida Supreme Court accepted jurisdiction for a number of legal reasons and issues. First, did the prosecutor have the right to appeal the decision terminating her probation. Second, there is case law in Florida that states prohibits the use of “no early termination” provisions in plea bargains because such provisions divest the Department of Corrections (DOC) of its authority to recommend early termination pursuant to section 948.04(3) and such provisions prevent future courts from exercising discretion to discharge defendants pursuant to section 948.05. Third, whether the “no early termination” provision of her plea agreement violates the doctrine of separation of powers under the Florida Constitution.
This case will have a major impact on all individuals seeking to terminate their probation early. If you are on probation and have completed all the special conditions of your probation, you should request the court to terminate your probation immediately! The longer you are on probation, the longer you risk violating your probation. Crazy things in life happen. Things happen that we do not plan on. Mistakes are made.
Don’t let a mistake cause you to violate your probation and place your freedom in jeopardy. Call now and speak to Thomas C. Grajek about terminating your probation today! 863-688-4606
Polk County criminal defense lawyer handling all felony and misdemeanor VOP cases including modifying your probation and early termination of probation.
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Thomas C. Grajek 863-688-4606