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Scott Plakon's Pretrial Diversion Legislation Nets Bi-Partisan Appeal

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The bill gives law enforcement and the courts the ability to issue citations for first time offenders in cases such as shoplifting, marijuana possession, and possession of alcohol for those under 21.


By Jacob Engels


State Representative Scott Plakon may hail from the uber conservative sector of Seminole County, but once again he is proving that common sense compassionate conservatism can go a long way. Plakon announced the filing of HB 1031 on his Facebook page Wednesday afternoon, and in several appearances on local television.


The full bill can be viewed here, along with a summary text.


“This will avoid, for example, a college student getting an arrest record and a mugshot that will live forever on the Internet and perhaps compromise an otherwise possibly bright future.” said Plakon “If passed, this legislation will save large amounts of tax dollars, enhance public safety and reduce recidivism," Plakon stated on his Facebook account.


Former Seminole County Libertarian Party Chairman and tech entrepreneur David Leavitt called the proposed legislation a "huge step."


"Plakon's new bill that would turn minor criminal offenses into civil citations is a huge step forward in reforming Florida's criminal justice system. I hope other legislators see the benefits of freeing up law enforcement to handle more serious crimes, reducing the taxpayer burden of jailing first-time minor offenders, and perhaps most importantly not ruining a young life for a petty one-time mistake."


Benjamin Pollara, who leads the United for Care effort to put medical marijuana on the ballot in 2016, was also supportive of Plakon's bill. Pollara is a longtime Democratic operative.


"HB 1031, like the civil asset forfeiture legislation filed by Rep. Caldwell and Sen. Brandes, is an important step forward by the legislature for the cause of criminal justice reform."


Florida Tax Watch published a whitepaper on legislation like Plakon's in 2014, urging the legislature and Governor to adopt pretrial diversion programs statewide. "Civil Citation programs are funded by the offender, not the taxpayers, reduce law enforcement processing time and expenses, reduce jail populations, and allow an ofender to avoid the stigma and burdens created by a criminal record."


Noted pollster and head of Gravis Marketing Doug Kaplan told the Seminole County Post demonstrates Plakon's compassion.


"It's an excellent bill. It shows the commonsense approach taken by Representative Plakon. I'm not surprised, he is an extremely compassionate man and this is a bill both sides can agree on. I'd like to see the mug shot websites regulated. Especially for people that have withhold adjudication or where the charges are eventually dropped."


Plakon, who is one of the legislators leading conservative policy wonks, has consistently shown his ability to propose and pass legislation that can earn bi-partisan appeal, while still staying true to his guiding principles. His 2015 JDS protection legislation that he filed with Democratic State Senator Darren Soto is another great example.


News 13 political analyst and Republican lobbyist Michelle Ertel argued that Plakon's proposal could "dramatically" change lives. "This bill is an interesting discussion starter and I look forward to hearing the feedback from law enforcement and the judiciary. If they support it, then this bill could dramatically change a lot of people’s lives."


And it seems that Plakon is quickly picking up support for his HB 1031 legislation from both sides of the aisle. Fellow Republican legislators Rene Plasencia and Bob Cortes have confirmed that they are "totally on board." Former Orange County Democratic Executive Committee Chairman and State House District 49 candidate Carlos Smith posted on Plakon's Facebook post that he would work to help Plakon pass this legislation if he were elected.


"There's no question Florida's criminal justice system is broken and in need of serious reform. Our antiquated marijuana laws are part of the problem and we need practical solutions like HB 1031 by Rep. Plakon, to give young people a second chance and keep minor offenses out of the courts."


Barack Obama's Florida chieftain and our state's most competent Democratic consultant Steve Schale said this issue will be difficult, but that Plakon's voice will be important.


"Navigating this issue will be difficult, but I'm really pleased to see Scott take it on. He brings an important voice from the right. I'm hopeful now that there is real leadership tackling this from both parties, we can find a few common sense solutions to ensure that people's lives aren't significantly impacted because of some one-time minor infraction."


With 2015 winding down and Floridians settling into holiday festivities, Plakon said that he looks forward to aggressively promoting the bill locally and in the capitol in 2016. A similar program instituted locally in Leon County found that of the 80% who followed the pretrial diversion programs, only 6% re-offended, an insanely effective success rate.


"This will ultimately save taxpayer dollars, stop onetime mistakes from ruining someone's life, and enhance public safety and trust," Plakon concluded.



Jacob Engels, is the Founder of East Orlando Post & Seminole County Post. He is a seasoned political operative who has led numerous statewide political groups and has worked on several high-profile local, statewide, and national races. Jacob has been interviewed on national television & radio programs, with his work having been featured in the Orlando Sentinel, New York Times, Washington Post, Miami Herald and other publications nationwide. He can be reached at [email protected]