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The Florida Bar

Drug Trafficking: Failure to Report for Substantial Assistance

A recent question submitted from Fort Lauderdale involved a defendant’s violation of a substantial assistance agreement entered into with the State Attorney’s office. The question posed was whether a defendant who had previously pled guilty to a crime and then absconded should be given an opportunity to explain why he had become a fugitive prior to sentencing? It should be noted that this plea was in order to facilitate his participating in substantial assistance in exchange for leniency.


A defendant absolutely has the right to explain to the court why he or she absconded after failing to adhere to the terms of an agreement entered into with the State. This right of explanation is not, however, entitled to a defendant in order to establish mitigation but rather to determine whether or not there was a justifiable excuse in failing to appear for scheduled court hearings or to meet with law enforcement officers in order to provide substantial assistance. Failure to allow defense counsel an opportunity to determine whether or not there was a legally sufficient excuse for a defendant’s failure to appear will result in a remand for a new hearing affording the defendant the right to provide any excuses for his failure to appear.

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