HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. — “It was very humiliating. I was student, not a criminal,” said Carlos Hermida of Tampa.
The USF graduate was arrested when he was 25 years old on campus leaving a philosophy class for lunch and charged with possession of less than a gram of marijuana.
“I was put in handcuffs right by the entrance of the school and my car was searched and it was humiliating,” Hermida said.
Now Hermida has three Bachelor’s degrees and an MBA. But the misdemeanor arrest cost him thousands of dollars he didn’t have and professional opportunity.
“I actually tried to become a substitute teacher at one point and I had to tell them about that situation and they didn’t hire me because of that,” Hermida said.
Hermida believes Hillsborough County is taking steps in the right direction after testing an adult pre-arrest diversion program.
If someone with no prior criminal record is arrested for certain non-violent misdemeanors they can learn from their mistake, instead of being crippled by it.
“This will affect people who make a mistake, the people who make a poor decision,” said Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister.
Sixteen hours of community service, online education courses and other measures completed within 120 days will take people out of jail while saving taxpayers money.
“If you could take every year, a thousand folks out of the criminal justice system, that’s where you see the financial savings,” said Public Defender Julie Holt.
There are exceptions like Assault on a Specified Official, Battery (Domestic Battery), Carrying a Concealed Weapon, DUI, Exposure of Sexual Organs, Failure to Ensure School Attendance, Improper Exhibition of a Dangerous Weapon or Firearms, Lewd and Lascivious Acts, Stalking or Cyberstalking, Traffic Offenses, Violation of an Injunction, Voyeurism and Video Voyeurism, Disorderly Intoxication, False Information to a LEO, Loitering or Prowling and Misuse of 911.
Hermida runs his own business now, but looking back he says this program would have saved him a lot of stress.
“It’s going to save people a lot of money. It’s going to save people a lot of heartache,” said Hermida.