Florida judge ends surprise-conviction practice

Florida Supreme Court
Posted at 11:39 AM, Mar 14, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-14 11:39:00-04

ORLANDO, Fla. - A Florida judge is ending a practice that surprised some defendants by giving them convictions for misdemeanors on their records without their realizing it.

Chief Judge Frederick Lauten of Florida's Ninth Judicial Circuit Court said Monday that he'd end the practice within six weeks. Some lawyers call the practice unconstitutional, and Lauten says: "We don't want to trick someone into entering a plea for a crime."

Under the practice, an officer issues misdemeanor suspects a notice to appear in court. It resembles a traffic ticket and gives the defendant two choices: pay a fine and not have to appear in court, or show up in court to contest it.

People pay the fine thinking that's the end of it, but a conviction ends up on their record.

The judge made his decision after The Associated Press questioned him about the practice.