Jameis Winston was accused of shoplifting in Florida. SB Nation released a story stating:
“Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston was issued a citation Tuesday for shoplifting crab legs from Publix, according to multiple sources. Winston, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, is a red-shirt sophomore for the Seminoles. ‘He got an adult civil citation,’ a trusted source inside Tallahassee Police told Tomahawk Nation. ‘If he completes the sanctions it will never show up on his record. They commonly give them to juveniles on first criminal offenses. They are now doing it for minor misdemeanors for adults to lower crime rate.’”
The crime that Winston is accused of committing is known as petit theft in Florida. I am assuming that the value of the property taken, the crab legs, was less than $100. Under Florida’s theft law, this is a second-degree misdemeanor.
Wiston’s shoplifting story is still developing, so a lot of the information is unknown at this time. I do see a problem with the reporting of this story. I have been reading that Winston was issued a civil citation. The issue that I have is that calling this a civil citation is somewhat misleading as to whether or not this is a criminal charge. If this had occurred in Jacksonville, the police officer may have issued I what is known as a notice to appear in Florida. As a Jacksonville criminal lawyer, I have had many clients that were issued notices to appear in lieu of arrests. This is not the same thing as Florida speeding tickets. A notice to appear is not just a basic civil citation. It is much more serious. It will show up on a Florida criminal background check. In order to erase it from your Florida criminal record, you must take another step. You must seal or expunge the criminal record.
If a person is issued a notice to appear ticket, the state attorney may offer a diversion program. A diversion program may have certain “sanctions” like the one referred to in the news article. Diversion programs may include several different sanctions, such as fines, classes, and community service. Diversion is not guaranteed in all Florida petit theft cases. In Jacksonville, you lawyer may have to negotiate with the state attorney. I do not know what exactly Winston was offered. If Winston was offered a diversion program, he will need to comply with the terms of the agreement or contract. Once a defendant completes the program, the charges may be dropped. If this occurs, the defendant will likely be able to expunge the record, assuming he or she otherwise qualifies for an expunction. Expunging a record in Florida is not a fast process. There are steps involved, and a wrong step could create a problem.
In my career as a Jacksonville criminal attorney, I have seen people receive citations for criminal charges. Some of them pay the court fees associated with it and are surprised that they have a Florida criminal record. Using the term “civil citation” tends to mitigate a criminal charge that is still very serious. Just because you were given a ticket after being accused of a crime, does not mean that everything is going to be fine. There may still be more that needs to be done to take care of this problem.