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State Attorney Amira Fox speaks during council meeting

August 14, 2019
By MELISSA BILL (news@breezenewspapers.com) , Lehigh Acres Citizen

A packed room of Lehigh residents came out to hear from the Lehigh Acres Community Council's featured speaker, State Attorney Amira Fox, of the 20th Judicial Circuit. Fox was the guest speaker during the council's monthly meeting held on Monday, Aug. 5.

The main goal of the informal talk was to give the citizens of Lehigh Acres a better view of what the State Attorney's Office does to protect the community against various crimes.

The 20th Judicial Circuit encompasses Charlotte, Collier, Glades, Hendry and Lee Counties.

Within the circuit, cases come to the State Attorney's Office from various law enforcement agencies.

"We handle the arrests from local agencies such as Lee and Collier County Sheriff's Office, Fort Myers Police Department and the state agencies including Florida Highway Patrol and Florida Game and Fish. Every time they make an arrest it comes through us," Fox explained.

Fox touched upon the importance of having experienced attorneys who handle specialized dockets or cases.

"Fire arm prosecution is very, very specialized. Attorneys have to understand the law inside and out and how to get the aggravators into sentencing. 10/20, for example, is possessing and carrying a fire arm and then using it to hurt someone. It's a 25-year minimum mandatory sentence. In order to get that sentence, the attorney must charge it correctly on the charging document, or they don't receive that sentence," Fox said.

According to Fox, the 20th Circuit is the largest circuit geographically in the State of Florida and handles around 70,000 cases a year.

For the size, the circuit still ranks low in crime compared to the rest of the state, she said.

"We just got the Florida Department of Law Enforcement's statistics and I'm very proud to tell you that for the seventh year in a row, this circuit has the lowest crime rate in the State of Florida. That's because of a couple of things; the excellent law enforcement and the citizens," Fox said.

Fox also credited innovation within the circuit and the creation of specialized units.

"We have specialized units such as Homicide, Firearms, Special Victims, Sexual Abuse, Human Trafficking and an Economic Crime Unit. Each one is handled by very experienced prosecutors who only try those types of cases," Fox said.

Other topics covered included a program for first-time offenders of non-violent crimes. For individuals who are non-violent offenders, but keep coming in and out of the courts due to issues with drug abuse or mental health.

"If we can't stop the cycle, it costs a ton of tax payer money. The jail is not a very good mental health facility but, unfortunately, it has turned into that in many counties. So we have active Problem Solving Courts for drug abuse, mental health and a Veteran's court. They are hard courts and may take the person up to two years to complete," Fox said.

Fox also discusses the success of new units to the circuit including Human Trafficking, Narcotics Task Force and a Cold Case Homicide Unit. She credited newly elected Florida State Rep. Spencer Roach and Sen. Kathleen Passidomo with helping to secure the funding for the Cold Case Homicide Unit.

"Spencer deeply cares about this area and felt this was an important issue. He chased the House leaders and speaker around the Capitol until he helped to get it through," Fox said. "Because, guess what happens? We find a lot of these violent crimes are committed by the same people who haven't been caught. At a certain point they become empowered and continue to do violent crimes. That's why it was a very important place to put our resources and help keep crime rates down."

Following Fox's talk, citizens were invited to ask questions pertaining to local legal issues. Questions ranged from information on stricter assault gun laws to how the State Attorney's Office handles illegal immigrants who break the law.

Council members and the public also heard a zoning request from an applicant on the down zoning of a large parcel of land from commercial to a place of worship.

For more information on the State Attorney's Office visit www.sao.cjis20.org/amira-d-fox/

 
 

 

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