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Certified Educators & Teachers Charged with a Crime

Anytime a public or private school teacher or other certified educator is arrested for or charged with a criminal offense certain collateral consequences attach. Even college or graduate students who intend to pursue a career as a public school teacher, private school teacher, or certified educator should be aware of these indirect criminal consequences.

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.

We can help you negotiate a settlement agreement or 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 including 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 the criminal charges as we protect your 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. Call 813-250-0500 to discuss your case.

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.

Preliminary Investigation of Misconduct by a Teacher after an Arrest

For public and private school teachers and other certified educators 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 a 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
  • Possession of marijuana or cannabis (or other controlled substances or narcotics).

Florida Statutes Section 1012.796 provides that any complaint of misconduct and all information obtained pursuant to the investigation by the Office of Professional Practices Services with the Florida Department of Education 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 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 section 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 of your teacher suspension or the revocation of your teaching certificate.

Additional Resources

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 prior to a Final Order being entered. The program was established in 1994 to assist educators after an issued related to the abuse of drug or alcohol and/or mental health issues. A teacher can participate in RNP on a voluntary basis after self-reporting or as a requirement of a Final Order of the Education Practices Commission.

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.

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 attorney 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 and the cities of Tampa, Plant City, New Port Richey, Dade City, Clearwater, St. Petersburg, Brooksville, Bartow, Lakeland, and Bradenton, 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 Tuesday, December 12, 2017.