Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Help Me Howard: What do pleas mean?
Here's a question, If you're arrested and the charges are dismissed, do they simply disappear? One woman found out the answer is no. After a decade-old arrest continues to interfere with her life to this day. Unable to shake the past, she presented her problem to Help me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- Dissere Pace: "I can tell you I'm family oriented."
Dissere is a mother of three.
Dissere Pace: "We are just good-hearted, kind people who are just trying to get on with our lives, and just overall a great family."
A good woman, but like the rest of us not perfect, and like the rest of us she has made a few mistakes in her life.
Dissere Pace: "Twelve years ago, not only was I a business administrator for an organization, I was also dancing part-time at a club to make extra income."
Dissere was a single mom who danced part-time to make money to take care of family.
Dissere Pace: "I do not like the word stripper because we are entertainers, we entertain."
But that part-time job is haunting her today after police came in the club.
Dissere Pace: "All of a sudden, they come in with guns saying, this is a raid."
The police said the girls were dancing inappropriately, and they were all under arrest.
Dissere Pace: "I went up to the chief of police, who I had danced for, and said, 'Excuse me, am I going to jail?' He said, yes."
As a defendant, Dissere like everyone who has been arrested, faced three choices.
Howard Finkelstein: "You can plead not guilty and go to trial, you can plead guilty and proceed to sentencing or you can plead no contest or nolo contendere, which the court will treat like a guilty plea and then sentence you."
Dissere entered a plea of not guilty, the charges were dropped. Her attorney promised her it was the best way to keep the arrest off her record.
Dissere Pace: "The worst part was being lied to, saying nothing was going to be on our record. All we had to do was pay a $200 fine and do some type of community service."
But recently, when Dissere filled out an application, she found out it was on her record.
Dissere Pace: "That's when they showed me my record, and I saw 'prostitution.' I almost fell out of my chair. I almost fainted."
There it is. Dissere's name from a decade-ago arrest for prostitution.
Dissere Pace: "Yes, I am. I'm very ashamed and embarrassed."
It was 11 years ago. She was simply dancing, but today it's haunting her, and she wants it to stop.
Dissere Pace: "I want it removed off of my record. It shouldn't be there. I paid my $200 fine, I did my community service hours. It should not be there at all."
But, Howard, how do you make a mistake from a decade ago go away?
Howard Finkelstein: "Even if you are not guilty, or the charges are dismissed like in Dissere's case, the arrest stays on your record. However, the law allows you one bite of the apple. In other words, you can seal that arrest and keep it from public view, if you have not been convicted of any other crimes."
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement has the application to seal your records. You can mail them the application or contact your state attorney's office. They have workshops to help you through the process.
Dissere is getting it done and glad to put a mistake she made behind her.
Dissere Pace: "To let people know that we shouldn't be ashamed, nobody is perfect. I'm born again, and I don't care what anybody thinks about me, I am who I am."
Patrick Fraser: "When your records are sealed, a business can't open them but a police agency can, and don't forget, if it's a big enough case, it will be on the Internet forever, even if it's sealed, and finally, if you are convicted of a crime, you can't seal your records."
Feel like it's a crime the way you are being treated? Want someone to set the record straight? Contact us, we'll seal the deal for you.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
FDLE Seal and Expunge Process