28 year old former Tampa Bay Rays player Elijah Dukes was arrested again Monday night on several outstanding warrants for failing to appear in court for past criminal charges. Dukes, a former major league baseball player with incredible talent but an inability to stay out of a criminal courtroom was also arrested on a driving while license suspended, cancelled, or revoked charge. Dukes is a native of Tampa and last played in the big leagues in 2009 for the Washington Nationals. This arrest is one in a long line dating from 2003 and ranging from domestic violence and obstructing a police officer to contempt of court arising from an alleged failure to pay child support.
Because Dukes is facing a new charge for driving while license suspended, cancelled, or revoked any relatively experienced Tampa criminal lawyer could safely presume that Dukes was pulled over for a routine civil traffic violation or officers ran his license plates revealing the registered owner, Dukes, had a suspended license and recognizing that the driver fit Dukes’ description. Either is a valid way for police to detain a Florida driver. Under Florida Statute 322.34(2), any person who is driving in Florida and knows that their driver’s license is cancelled, suspended, or revoked is guilty of a second degree misdemeanor on their first offense and first degree misdemeanor on their second offense. A third of subsequent conviction under 322.34(2) is a third degree felony.
At the time of arrest Dukes had 3 outstanding warrants for driving while license suspended, cancelled, or revoked, one warrant for misdemeanor possession of marijuana, one warrant for misdemeanor possession of drug paraphernalia, and one warrant for tampering with evidence where during a prior arrest he was alleged to have attempted to eat the marijuana he was subsequently charged with. What many don’t realize is that when an individual fails to appear in court where they have a bond, they can be charged with a Failure to Appear charge contrary to Florida Statute 843.15. Because Dukes had been arrested on many or all of the charges for which he had active warrants for yesterday, he at one time had a bond and had posted that bond. All the State Attorney’s Office must prove on a Failure to Appear charge is that 1) there were original charges leading to arrest 2) a bond was posted to bail out of jail for each charge, and; 3) the individual failed to appear at a court hearing. If a significant amount of time has passed since the failure to appear and the individual didn’t voluntarily turn themselves into the police, the State Attorney is more likely to charge the individual with Failure to Appear. The State can charge the person with a third degree felony for every felony not appeared on and a first degree misdemeanor for every misdemeanor not appeared on. It’s unknown at this time whether the State Attorney’s Office will pursue Failure to Appear charges. Considering Dukes’ long history of criminal activity, prior failures to appear, and one of the subject charges being tampering with evidence it is very possible that they may.
Dukes is very likely to be stuck in the Hillsborough County Jail for the duration of the pendency of his charges. His history is simply not one that lends itself to a bond being granted. It’s too early to speculate on what the ultimate outcome will be on all that he has pending. Further, without being the Tampa criminal attorney of record on his cases it’s impossible to say how strong the evidence is against him or if any potential punishment would be a probation sentence, jail sentence, or time in the Florida Department of Corrections. As a Tampa criminal attorney and baseball fan in general, I truly hope Dukes can right the ship. He was a talented player and is a local guy and to see him only pop up on the news for an arrest or breaking the law is a shame.
Jason Mayberry is a Federal and State criminal attorney practicing in the Tampa Bay area. If you’ve been charged with a criminal offense in Florida contact us at 813-444-7435 or at 727-771-3847 for a free consultation. We’re available from 9AM to 5PM, Monday through Friday.