ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — A major mistake inside the state attorney's office landed a Central Florida woman back behind bars for a crime she thought had been wiped off her record.
The woman had entered a pretrial diversion program to get her DUI arrest removed from her criminal record, but despite that program, she was just rearrested at work for a crime from six years ago.
The state attorney's office decided she had violated the terms of the agreement and said a pretrial diversion rejection lettes should have been sent out, indicating she had been removed from that program. But the woman claims she didn't receive the notice for five years and, now, she has lost her job.
“You know, they took me off to jail like I was a criminal,” the woman, who wishes to remain anonymous, said. "Handcuffed me and everything. I mean, this was my first offense.”
The Orlando nurse said she was arrested at work last week and fired.
The arrest stems from a DUI for which she entered a pretrial diversion program, but her rejection letter was mysteriously delayed since 2014.
“I had a fantastic job and now I have to look for another job,” the woman said. “It's ruined my life. It has been turned upside down over something that happened, that was cleared up, six years ago.”
The lawyer who represented her in court said he was shocked at the sudden unearthing of a case he'd filed away in storage.
“Usually, what happens if something gets rejected from diversion, I will get a notice of rejection,” said attorney Chris Atcachunas. “In the case, that's placed on the docket within a reasonable amount of time -- probably within a month or two.”
Pretrial diversion is a way of helping first-time offenders clear their records. Atcachunas said he thought his client's case was closed, but now he has another similarly delayed case.
More than three years passed in that case between the time pretrial diversion was ordered and when it was denied and the defendant was notified.
This makes the now-unemployed nurse wonder: How many more cases are out there?
“It makes no sense,” the woman said. “What I'm afraid of is that it's going to happen to someone else. Someone is going to fall into this same trap.”
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