Many Tampa criminal defense attorneys are often asked about questions concerning a Violent Felony Offender of Special Concern and what all this is designation entails. Very few Florida Statutes are more difficult to comprehend that Florida’s “Anti-Murder Act”. Ultimately, it is best known for creating the designation of “violent felony offender of special concern” or VFOSC. As with many criminal justice statutes, this Statute began as a good idea in Tallahassee with good intentions, but has unfortunately developed into something far more difficult for Florida’s circuit courts to process. Ultimately, a VFOSC constitutes a person who is on felony probation or community control for a qualifying substantive offense, generally involving violence or a threat of violence. This makes it far more difficult to resolve violations of probation and other criminal matters, that should be quickly resolved.
This designation primarily concerns one’s ability to get bond for a violation of probation for anything other failure to pay fines, restitution or cost of supervision. The court is barred from releasing the accused with bail pending the resolution of the probation or community control violation. Ultimately, a violent felon of special concern cannot be given bond or bail until the VOP (“violation of probation”) or VOCC (“violation of community control”) is resolved.
Even more specifically, if the probationer is charged with certain enumerated offenses under the Statute, generally regarding sex offenses, a court is required to conduct even further hearings prior to the release of the individual. Prior to the court granting a bail or bond to someone charged with violation of probation, “the court is required to conduct a ‘dangerousness’ hearing and has the discretion to release such an offender ‘with or without bail to await further hearing,’ such an offender who is also a violent felony offender of special concern or is violent felony offender of special concern-qualified cannot be released or be granted bail under any circumstances.” A “dangerousness” hearing is essentially what it sounds like, a hearing to determine how dangerous the individual will be in the future.
Additionally, the Act requires the court conduct a recorded hearing to consider the following factors, once the court had determined the violent felon of special concern has committed a substantive probation violation:
- Make written findings as to whether or not the violent felony offender of special concern poses a danger to the community. In determining the danger to the community posed by the offender’s release, the court must base its findings on one or more of the following:
- The nature and circumstances of the violation and any new offenses charged.
- The offender’s present conduct, including criminal convictions.
- The offender’s amenability to nonincarcerative sanctions based on his or her history and conduct during the probation or community control supervision from which the violation hearing arises and any other previous supervisions, including disciplinary records of previous incarcerations.
- The weight of the evidence against the offender.
- Any other facts the court considers relevant.
- Decide whether to revoke the probation or community control.
“If the court has found that a VFOSC concern poses a danger to the community, the court must revoke probation and ‘shall’ sentence the offender up to the statutory maximum, or longer if permitted by law. If the court has found that a VFOSC does not pose a danger to the community, the court may revoke, modify, or continue the probation or community control or may place the probationer into community control.”
Ultimately, the violent felony offender of special concern status makes it incredibly difficult for individuals to receive a bond pending a felony violation of probation and significantly increases sentences once a violation of probation has been proven. Again, this puts a tremendous burden on those accused of crimes and Tampa criminal defense attorneys because of the burdens it puts on plea negotiations with the State Attorney’s Office.
If you or someone you know has been deemed a violent felony offender of special concern and faces a violation of probation, contact the Tampa criminal defense attorneys of Hackworth Law for a free case consultation. We have resolved thousands of criminal cases throughout the Tampa Bay area. If you would like to contact one of our Tampa criminal defense attorneys immediately, please use the “contact us now” tab in the upper right hand corner of our website. We appreciate you taking the time to review our Tampa criminal defense attorney blog and we look forward to hearing from you.