As criminal defense lawyers in Jacksonville, Florida, we handle all varieties of criminal cases. Every now and then, the police will set up a sting or establish a particular focus on a particular crime. This often results in the arrest of people who actually commit that crime as well as people who did nothing wrong but get caught up in the enthusiasm of the Jacksonville police. One common example is the Jacksonville police’s focus on pulling people over for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs (i.e. DUI) around holiday weekends like July 4th, New Year’s and Labor Day.
Lately, we have heard from clients about the police going after contractors for allegedly offering to do work they are not licensed to perform. And what we have seen is these cases appear to be very problematic. Many of these individuals who are arrested have occupational licenses that allow them to do a variety of maintenance and repair work on a person’s home. In order to do certain jobs, like plumbing and electrical, they need a more specialized license. In these cases, the police have someone posing as a homeowner who lures the contractors over by asking them over the phone to do work they are legally licensed to do, such as installing cabinets. When the contractor gets to the home, the police agent then does not want to discuss the cabinets but tries to get the person to agree to do other work, or atl east offer a price for the other work, such as the electrical or plumbing work. Even where the contractor refuses to do the work but throws out an estimate as to what it might cost, the police rush in and make the arrest.
Contractors in Jacksonville, particularly those who advertise on Craigslist, need to be careful what they say to prospective customers during that initial meeting regarding the work to be performed. If the police have set up a sting to arrest contractors, even licensed contractors as the police are apparently not making the distinction, anything a contractor says, even a general reference to a price, will likely result in an arrest. Of course, these charges can be defended in court, but the charge of offering to perform contracting services without a license is a serious charge with potentially very serious penalties, particularly for honest contractors who cannot afford to have such an arrest and/or conviction on his/her record.