Pilot program to let some first-time misdemeanor offenders in Orange, Osceola avoid arrest

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — People who commit misdemeanors in Orange and Osceola counties could avoid being arrested and taken to jail under a new program.

Orange-Osceola State Attorney Monique Worrell announced a new adult civil citation program to divert first-time offenders from the criminal legal system on Thursday.

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As part of the program, instead of ending up here in front of a judge, first-time offenders for certain low-level misdemeanor offenses will not be arrested and after completing several steps like community service hours, the charges will go away like they never happened.

The civil citation pilot program will start Friday and last for the next 90 days.

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Worrell said the program will be a mechanism to ensure that individuals who commit low-level crimes are only jailed when necessary to ensure public safety. Some eligible misdemeanor offenses include possession of drug paraphernalia, battery, retail theft, trespassing, disorderly conduct and loitering.

“Law enforcement responsibilities will include using existing procedures to establish whether or not probable cause exists to believe that a crime had been committed, a search of prior criminal records and if the adult meets the eligibility criteria, the law enforcement official may offer the adult the option of the civil citation program,” Worrell said.

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Law enforcement officers from the city of Orlando, the Orange County Sheriff’s Office and the Kissimmee Police Department are the only participants in the program right now, but that could expand to others.

The program is voluntary for those facing arrest, and participants will be required to pay a fee of $175, complete community service hours and complete an online course within 90 days for their charges to be dismissed.

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Jeff Levkulich

Jeff Levkulich, WFTV.com

Jeff Levkulich joined the Eyewitness News team as a reporter in June 2015.

Sarah Wilson

Sarah Wilson, WFTV.com

Sarah Wilson joined WFTV Channel 9 in 2018 as a digital producer after working as an award-winning newspaper reporter for nearly a decade in various communities across Central Florida.