Defending Teachers Charged with a Crime
What happens when a teacher or certified educator is arrested, charged, or convicted of crime?
Teachers are held to a higher standard than others in the community when it comes to obeying the law. Any arrest or conviction comes with consequences to the teacher’s career. The arrest might trigger a 48-hour reporting requirement.
Your first priority is to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney who can represent you in the courtroom as you fight for the best results. You also need an attorney who is familiar with the reporting requirements and procedures used in disciplinary actions that might follow the resolution of the criminal case.
For instance, if you are accused of a crime or enter a plea, then the Department of Education might find probable cause to justify sanctions against your Florida Educator Certificate. Even if you are not charged with a crime, instances of educator misconduct can trigger a disciplinary hearing.
In these cases, Pam Stewart, as the Commissioner of Education might file an Administrative Complaint seeking suspension, revocation, permanent revocation, or other action against your Florida educator’s certificate.
We can help you negotiate a settlement agreement for resolution. An attorney can also attend your conference call with the Teacher Hearing Panel of the Education Practices Commission. The commission decides during this hearing whether to accept the settlement agreement as an appropriate way to resolve the case.
If there are disputed issues of fact, we can help you fight to protect your rights during a formal hearing before the Division of Administrative Hearings or an informal hearing before the Education Practices Commission, a quasi-judicial body.
Attorney for Teachers Charged with a Crime in Tampa, FL
The criminal defense attorneys at the Sammis Law Firm, P.A., are experienced in representing public and private school teachers as well as other certified educators against allegations of criminal misconduct throughout the Tampa Bay area.
Our criminal defense attorneys help teachers charged with a crime in Tampa and Plant City in Hillsborough County, Bartow, and Lakeland in Polk County, Clearwater, and St. Petersburg in Pinellas County, New Port Richey and Dade City in Pasco County, Brooksville in Hernando County, and Bradenton in Manatee County, FL.
We can help you fight criminal charges as we protect your career and Florida Educator Certificate. Call our office to find out what you might need to do right now to protect yourself and your career after a misdemeanor or felony allegation, investigation, arrest, or charge.
We can also help you decide if you should self-report the incident and submit to a substance abuse evaluation so that any sanctions can be completed quickly at the beginning of the case.
Call (813) 250-0500 to discuss your case.
Teacher’s 48 Hour Rule for Self-Reporting Arrest or Conviction in Florida
Under Rule 6A-10.081 of the Florida Administrative Code (FAC), teachers and education professionals are held to certain principles of professional conduct including requirements to self-report an arrest or conviction.
In fact, Rule 6A-10.081(13) provides that the teacher or education professional:
Shall self-report within forty-eight (48) hours to appropriate authorities (as determined by district) any arrests/charges involving:
- the abuse of a child; or
- the sale and/or possession of a controlled substance.
Such notice shall not be considered an admission of guilt nor shall such notice be admissible for any purpose in any proceeding, civil or criminal, administrative or judicial, investigatory or adjudicatory.
In addition, shall self-report any conviction, finding of guilt, withholding of adjudication, commitment to a pretrial diversion program, or entering of a plea of guilty or Nolo Contendere for any criminal offense other than a minor traffic violation within forty-eight (48) hours after the final judgment.
When handling sealed and expunged records disclosed under this rule, school districts shall comply with the confidentiality provisions of sections 943.0585(4)(c) and 943.059(4)(c), F.S.
Preliminary Investigation of Misconduct by a Teacher after an Arrest
For public and private school teachers, certified educators, and other education professionals throughout the State of Florida, the Office of Professional Practices with the Florida Department of Education is responsible for investigating allegations of misconduct.
Misconduct can include allegations that a misdemeanor or felony offense was committed either because of an arrest or the filing of formal charges. Allegations of misconduct can even include misdemeanor traffic offenses when the arresting officer gives you the notice to appear in court.
The most common criminal charges against teachers and certified educators in Florida include:
- DUI (often called drunk driving, DWI, or driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs);
- Driving while license suspended or revoked;
- Shoplifting (or other forms of petit or grand theft);
- Domestic violence battery or child abuse for an incident that occurs in the teacher’s home or involves the teacher’s family member; or
- Possession of marijuana or cannabis (or other controlled substances or narcotics).
Florida Statutes Section 1012.796 provides that any misconduct complaint and all information obtained according to the Office of Professional Practices Services investigation with the Florida Department of Education is exempt from public disclosure and considered “confidential” at least until the conclusion of the preliminary investigation.
Even if you are not charged with a crime, an allegation of educator misconduct can be made against you for any of the following allegations:
- direct harm to students (such as physical or sexual abuse);
- an act detrimental to the education profession (such as falsifying documentation of continuing education courses or cheating on a professional exam).
Although most allegations of educator misconduct are related to something that occurs at the school campus or with members of the school community, it can also involve something that happens off-campus and away from students.
Notice of the Preliminary Investigation of the Teacher
Once a case has been opened, the Florida Department of Education’s Office of Professional Practices Services will send the teacher or certified educator written notice via certified mail.
The letter will tell the educator the information that makes up the allegation, including the criminal offense, whether charges were filed, and the date of the alleged offense.
The letter will state that if the allegations are founded, the allegations could lead to disciplinary action against the teacher or certified educator’s Florida Educator Certificate. Disciplinary action against the teaching certificate could include permanent revocation.
Defending a Teacher against Allegations of Misconduct
Within ten (10) days of receipt of the written notice, the teacher or certified educator (or the teacher’s criminal defense attorney) can provide the Office of Professional Practices Services in the Florida Department of Education with documents, exhibits, or a list of evidentiary witnesses that are relevant to disproving the criminal allegations or showing that a defense can be asserted in the case.
At the conclusion of the preliminary investigation by the Office of Professional Practices Services, the teacher or certified educator (or the criminal defense attorney) will be notified by certified mail of the date and time to review the investigation materials and respond to the allegations of misconduct.
The rules and statutes that govern the process of contesting allegations of misconduct made against a teacher or certified educator in Florida can be found at www.myfloridateacher.com.
If the commissioner of education finds probable cause to justify sanctions against your Florida Educator Certificate, then you will receive a “Finding of Probable Cause” letter, Administrative Complaint, and Election of Rights form by certified mail a few months later.
In most cases, the teacher will select the settlement option that allows the teacher to neither admit nor deny the allegations. Instead, the teacher can request a forty-five (45) day period to negotiate a settlement agreement.
During that time, the teacher’s attorney can help the teacher reach the settlement so that a formal or informal hearing can be avoided.
Sanctions Against Your Florida Educator Certificate
When a teacher is accused of a crime or another form of misconduct, the Commissioner of Education with the State of Florida might take action if probable cause exists to justify sanctions against the teacher’s Florida Educator Certificate.
In fact, any teacher violates section 1012.795(1)(f), Florida Statutes, by being convicted or found guilty of, or entering a plea of guilty to, regardless of adjudication of guilty, any misdemeanor, felony, or any other criminal charge other than a minor traffic violation.
Penalties levied against the teacher can include:
- the issuance of a written reprimand;
- the assessment of an administrative fine;
- being placed on probation for any period of time;
- having a restriction placed on the scope of practice;
- receiving a suspension not to exceed five years;
- receiving a revocation not to exceed ten years; or
- suffering the permanent revocation of your Educator Certificate.
When the allegations against the teacher involve the use of drugs or alcohol, the Education Practices Commission will often direct the teacher to enroll in the Recovery Network Program (RNP).
An attorney can help you decide whether you should self-report the issue and begin treatment immediately. In some cases, it is must faster, cheaper, and more convenient to self-report rather than to wait on an administrative action that is sure to follow.
In these cases, you will receive an administrative complaint and election of rights (appeal) form. The form must be completed, signed, and returned to the Office of Professional Practices Services.
The administrative complaint seeks appropriate disciplinary sanctions against the teacher’s educator’s certificate pursuant to sections 1012.315, 1012.795, and 1012.796, Florida Statutes.
The rules that govern these administrative actions are found in the Florida Administrative Code at Rule 6A-10.081 for the Principles of Professional Conduct for the Education Profession in Florida.
Our attorneys can help you fight for your right to settle the matter on the best possible terms. We can also help you enter an appeal for your teacher suspension or the revocation of your teaching certificate.
Settlement Agreements with the Education Practices Commission in Florida
In many of these cases, a settlement agreement can be reached. After Pam Stewart, as the Commissioner of Education, files an Administrative Complaint seeking to suspend, revoke, permanently revoke or take other disciplinary action against the Florida eductor’s certificate, your attorney can help you negotiate a settlement agreement.
After you enter into the written Settlement Agreement for resolution, a Teacher Hearing Panel of the Education Practices Commissions meets via telephone conference call to decide whether to accept the Settlement Agreement as the appropriate resolution of the cause.
If it is accepted, then a final order will be entered and the educator will be required to comply with its terms and conditions. Copies of the final order will be provided to the Office of Professional Practices Services, Bureau of Educator Certification, Senior Assistant Attorney General, and the Clerk of the Division of Administrative Hearings.
Unless waived, if you were adversely affected by the final order, you are entitled to judicial review pursuant to Section 120.68, Florida Statutes. Review proceedings are governed by the Florida Rules of Appellate Procedure.
Such proceedings are commenced by filing one copy of a notice of appeal with the Education Practices Commission and a second copy, accompanied by filing fees prescribed by law, with the district court of appeal, First District, or with the District Court of Appeal in the Appellate District where the party resides. The notice of appeal must be filed within thirty (30) days of the rendition of the final order
Such proceedings are commenced by filing one copy of a notice of appeal with the Education Practices Commission and a second copy, accompanied by filing fees set by law, with the district court of appeal, First District, or with the District Court of Appeal in the Appellate District where the party resides.
The notice of appeal must be filed within thirty (30) days of the rendition of the final order.
When the School is Notified of an Arrest of a School Employee
As required by Florida Statute §1012.797, local law enforcement agencies are required to report within 48 hours, the name and address of any school employee arrested on a felony charge or misdemeanor involving child abuse or drug possession to the appropriate school superintendent.
To comply with this law, any law enforcement officer who, in the course of his investigation, determines that a person charged with a qualifying crime is an employee of any school district within the State of Florida shall note the school district’s location on the entities section of the general offense report.
The records coordinator will be responsible for causing a copy of the face sheet of the incident report, to be mailed, depicting the arrested person’s name and address, to the appropriate superintendent of schools within the allotted time.
Upon notification by law enforcement, the principal must, within 24 hours, notify parents of enrolled students who had direct contact with the employee and include, at a minimum, the employee’s name and the specific charges against him or her. Section 1012.797, F.S.
Florida’s Department of Education (DOE) is also required to investigate complaints or allegations made against certified educators and initiate proceedings to suspend or revoke the educator’s certificate if grounds exist to do so.
Florida law references certified educators employed by traditional public schools, charter schools, and private schools participating in state school choice scholarship programs, while omitting approved virtual instruction providers. Section 1012.796(1), F.S.
Florida law also requires law enforcement agencies to notify the appropriate district school superintendent, charter school governing board, private school owner or administrator, president of the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind, or university lab schools director or principal, as applicable, within 48 hours if an employee is arrested for a felony or a misdemeanor involving the abuse of children or sale or possession of controlled substances. Section 1012.797, F.S.
Recovery Network Program (RNP) – Contact the Recovery Network Program to discuss information related to your participation in the program with a Recovery Network Program treatment provider for the purpose of determining and reporting compliance with the terms of my Final Order or because of voluntary self-reporting before a Final Order being entered. The program was established in 1994 to assist educators after an issue related to the abuse of drugs or alcohol and/or mental health issues. A teacher can participate in RNP voluntarily after self-reporting or as a requirement of a Final Order of the Education Practices Commission. If your final order contains a Recovery Network Program (RNP) evaluation or treatment provision, you must immediately contact the RNP office. Failure to immediately contact the RNP Office could result in further sanctions against your teaching certificate.
Florida’s Office of Professional Practices Services – PPS investigates allegations of misconduct by certified educators that are supported by ultimate facts and deemed to be legally sufficient. PPS determines whether probable cause exists to justify sanctions or disciplinary action against the teacher’s Florida Educator Certificate under the authority found in Section 1012.796, Florida Statutes. Investigations can include visits to the school, interviews with the alleged victim and witnesses, reviewing personnel files, student folders, audit reviews, and retrieving court documents. If your final order contains a term of probation, you must immediately contact the Probation Office for Professional Practices Services, 325 Gaines St., Suite 224-E, Tallahassee, FL 32399-0400. Failure to immediately contact the probation office could result in further sanctions against your teaching certificate, including suspension or revocation, could jeopardize your ability to work as an educator in Florida.
Criminal Defense Attorneys for Teachers Charged with a Crime
If you are employed as a public or private school teacher in the Tampa Bay area, call to speak with one of our criminal defense attorneys about any allegations of misconduct or a criminal investigation.
Never speak with law enforcement about the allegations until AFTER you have discussed the case with your attorney.
Our criminal defense attorneys represent teachers and certified educators throughout the Tampa Bay area, including Hillsborough County, Pasco County, Pinellas County, Hernando County, Polk County, and Manatee County.
The fight criminal cases in the courthouses located in Tampa, Plant City, New Port Richey, Dade City, Clearwater, St. Petersburg, Brooksville, Bartow, Lakeland, Bradenton, and Winter Haven, FL.
Call us to discuss how we can fight to protect you from the possible career consequences that occur after an arrest or prosecution.
This article was last updated on Friday, November 4, 2022