Times are tough and governmental agencies are doing everything in their power to "save a buck." Tactics are not limited to layoffs, hiring freezes and the discontinuation of "cost of living" pay increases for governmental employees. Every branch of government is looking for any excuse to that will positively affect their "bottom line."
This fiscal mentality has led to a wide range of creative stratagies which in many cases have effectively equated to the throwing of a life preserver at monetary economic shortfalls.
One method, used by the "bean counters" is to discontinue benefits to governmental recipients. The Pinellas County Criminal Justice Center has seen a sharp increase in the number of defendant’s petitioning the court to withdraw old misdemeanor outstanding warrants when the federal government started aggressively enforcing Section 202(x)(1)(A) and 1611(e)(4)(A) of the Social Security Act. These provisions provide that Social Security Disability benefits can be discontinued to any individual for any month during which that person has an outstanding warrant for their arrest.
Further efforts to avoid paying benefits in tough economic times can also be observed through proposed new legislation. Just last month, the Florida House of Representatives, by more than a 2 to 1 margin, passed HB 7005. The legislation represent’s the government’s efforts to avoid paying Worker’s Compensation benefits by broadly expanding the definition of “misconduct” that would otherwise disqualify a worker from receiving benefits. The Florida Senate not only adopted the definition, but took a further step to combat the budget shortfall through SB 728. This proposed legislation makes it less burdensome for an employer to establish that a worker was terminated “for cause.”
Student loans are now denied after a routine record check reveals that the applicant has a conviction for a drug offense. This practice amounts to over 40,000 loan rejections per year for those persons attempting to pursue a higher education. Every student loan application now includes the question "Have you ever been convicted of selling or using illegal drugs?"
Drug convictions can also form the basis of a denial for food stamps, TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families), and federally assisted housing benefits. (See: U.S. Government Accounting Report) A Drug trafficking conviction in either state or federal court currently provides judges with the discretion to impose an additional sanction to the mandatory prison sentence that these convictions normally carry. You guessed it! Once released from serving his term of incarceration, the drug trafficker can be denied any and all federal benefits for a period of five years to life.
Govern Rick Scott is about to sign new legislation that would require all Welfare recipients to submit to and pay for mandatory drug testing. Recipients who test positive for illegal drugs would have their benefits discontinued for a year. If a subsequent urinalysis comes up "positive," they they stand to lose their benefits for three years. Parents who test positive, are required to designate another adult to begin receiving benefits on behalf of their children.
We have all seen the common placard displayed on convenience store windows that says "Use a Gun...Go to Jail." (Warning of Florida's minimum mandatory state prison sentences for offenses committed with the use of a firearm.) Perhaps a new warning is appropriate...
"Get arrested and lose your benefits."
If you have been charged with a criminal offense, the ramifications go far beyond your immediate concerns of fines, costs and the possibility of a sentence that could include time spent in the Pinellas County Jail or the Florida State Prison system. Both Misdemeanor and Felony criminal conviction can likely affect your ability to collect government assistance and interfere with your ability to secure employment. Felony or theft convictions could prevent you from being licensed in many occupations and prohibit your ability to lawfully own, use or possess a firearm.
We are former State Prosecutors who routinely handle criminal cases that originate from arrests that take place in the St. Petersburg, Clearwater and surrounding Pinellas county areas. At our free consultation, we can discuss with you your eligibility to participate in diversion (PTI) or domestic violence intervention programs designed to have the criminal charge dismissed. We can also explore other possible solutions and explain the benefits of receiving a withholding of adjudication. Best of all, you can learn about the process of petitioning the court to seal or expunge your record of arrest. Even if you are a first time offender, don't trust the advise of a well meaning family member or friend. You will have to live the results of your criminal court case for the rest of your life.
Have You or a Relative Been Arrested for a Drug Offense?
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