The Golden Beach Police department can now boast of three recent arrests of police officers accused of allegedly skimming money from the town and the taxpayers who reside there. The officers are currently charged with grand theft and organized scheme to defraud. Reports indicate that the officers failed to pay the town a portion of income earned by working off-duty jobs. The town requires that officers report all off-duty hours worked and further requires that they pay a $5 fee for every hour worked. The fee is supposed to compensate the town for police car maintenance, uniforms, gasoline and insurance costs. The defendants will all retain private Miami criminal defense attorneys to defend the charges.
The amount of the fraud is minimal, with one defendants allegedly bilking the town out of $1,500 and the other about $2,100. While most first time offenders would normally be offered the pre-trial intervention (PTI) program, officers are generally held to a higher standard and will not be offered an opportunity to resolve their cases in that manner. The pre-trial intervention program is usually offered to all first time defendants that are charged with non-serious, non-violent felony offenses. The defendants are required to complete certain conditions in exchange for a nolle pros or dismissal from the state attorney's office. The conditions that are usually required to be completed include community service hours, certain programs such as drug classes, domestic violence classes and theft classes, and fines and charitable contributions.
Defendants who are also police officers are not offered the program, but will be offered pleas that require them to give up their FDLE certifications or their licenses to be police officers. Because any plea with this condition will effectively end a police officers career, the majority of cases involving police officers go to trial. A lot also depends on the amount of evidence that exists against these defendants. Cases involving police officers are handled by the public corruption unit in the Miami-Dade County State Attorneys Office. While a specialized unit handles the prosecution, the cases, like all others are blind-filed or randomly assigned to one of the 20 criminal circuit judges sitting on the bench.
The officers like all defendants will have an arraignment date scheduled 21 days from the date of the arrest. During that 21 day period, an assistant state attorney will review the reports and talk to witnesses to determine if there is enough evidence to proceed with the case. If the prosecutor does not have enough evidence to file the case, he or she will no action the case and it ends there. If there is enough evidence to proceed, the prosecutor will file the charges and the case will be set for trial. Just because a case is filed does not mean all hope is lost. The defense lawyer handling the case will be permitted to engage in discovery and depose the majority of the state witnesses. Many cases become more defensible as the discovery process proceeds. The discovery process can provide defense counsel with the ammunition needed to file pre-trial motions such as motions to suppress and dismiss. Another plus is that the cases may get so weak that the state can seek to resolve in ways that avoid a plea and a trial. That is why any one arrested must find experienced counsel to represent them in criminal proceedings.
Two More Golden Beach Cops Arrested, Miami Herald.com, April 12, 2011.