Legal Question in Criminal Law in Florida


Please bear with me; I have several questions and I'm pretty upset about this...

I was just served with an ordinance violation because two of my dogs pushed their way out my back door and decided to take a romp around the neighborhood without my knowledge. I was upstairs in my townhouse and had no idea they left. Long story short, by the time I discovered they ran out, they had greeted another dog and owner. The owner freaked out and called police. NO injuries to her or her just understandably took her by surprise and shook her up. The officer was really nice and just gave me one violation for not having them both on leash and them being "at large" without an owner. (He even said he felt sorry for me, but had to give me "something" because it is an ordinance). :(

I'm supposed to either appear in court or pay a fine. Instinct tells me to just pay the fine b/c they were out the door without me or a leash. I can't dispute that even though it was truely unintentional. I guess the door must not have been closed locked up tight enough..?

Now that I've had time to think about it; I'm kind of nervous about what this could potentially do to my clean record. I work for a Fortune 200 company and I'm Federally cleared to be an instructor with the US Naval Sea Cadets. I really don't need/want a criminal record.

Should I just plea no contest and pay the fine, hoping that my explaination of the event is good enough to not cause me issues, or should I go to court and try to ask for adj. to be withheld? Will they withhold adj. if I automatically pay the fine right away after court? I'm so confused. From what I understand, I can probably have it sealed, but doesn't that cost a lot of money too? I can't afford to do much; can't afford a lawyer. I'm going to have to scrape to get the fine paid as it is. Am I going to have a "conviction" that I have to disclose to everyone now, plus future employers if I plea no contest? Please give me some direction as to what I should do to have the least amount of damage to my record.

Thank you!

Asked on 8/11/10, 9:12 am

1 Answer from Attorneys

Craig Epifanio Craig Epifanio, P.A.

It doesn't appear you have a defense since they were "at large" and this is actually fairly common. However, you need to go to court to make sure and ask the judge to withhold adjudication. You can ask the clerk if you pay, if there is an option to get a withhold but I think only the judge can do that. Tell the judge you have no prior record and he should withhold. If you don't this will always be on your record and you can never get this or anything else sealed in the future.

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Answered on 8/16/10, 9:59 am

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