I recently learned of a Florida law known as the Widman Act because of a recent violation of probation case I handled. A client who I represented on a pending Sarasota violation of probation case was out on bond waiting for his next court date when he was arrested for a new criminal charge in Charlotte County. Although he had a relatively low bond on the Charlotte county criminal charge, the Charlotte judge ordered that my client be held with no bond under the Widman Act. The new arrest in Charlotte county technically violated his Sarasota probation. The client was held for several days with no bond, and later transported to Sarasota county where he was brought before the first appearance judge.
The Widman Act was a law passed in 2011 by the Florida legislature, and is now part of Florida Statute 948.06(1)(c). The law was named in honor of a Fort Myers police officer, Andrew Widman, who was killed by a person who had a lengthy criminal history and an active warrant for violating his probation. The Widman Act law states that if a judge finds reasonable grounds to believe that a probationer or an offender has violated his or her probation or community control in a material respect by committing a new violation of law, the judge may issue a warrant for the arrest of the person. A judge at the first appearance or “advisory hearing” does not have to be the judge who actually presides over the case to issue the warrant, and does not have to wait for the probation officer to file a violation of probation affidavit. In other words, the judge who presides over the first appearance hearing can on his or her own motion order that the Defendant be held in custody for a violation of probation, even though the court itself may not have jurisdiction over the violation of probation case.
I have to admit that where I normally practice, Sarasota and Manatee counties, we do not use the term Widman Act. I would go even further to say that I have never had a prosecutor in Sarasota or Manatee ever ask for a hold under the Widman Act, even though the law has been in effect since 2011. When I went to my client’s first appearance in Sarasota, I did feel a little better about myself when the presiding judge over the video asked aloud “what is the Widman Act?”
Since this case I have done quite a bit of research on the Widman Act to better educate myself. If you have any questions about your violation of probation case, or need further information regarding how the Widman Act might affect your violation of probation case, please feel free to call me for a free no obligation consultation at (941) 919-3666.