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Florida Supreme Court: Unauthorized Absence from Work is 'Escape from Custody' for Work Release Prisoner

In a decision handed down on September 3, 2016, the Florida Supreme Court upheld the escape conviction of a man who left his work site without permission while he was on work release. The ruling paved the way for the case to be returned to the lower court for trial.

Claudio J. Poillot was serving a 48-month sentence in the Florida Department of Corrections ()OC) when he was sent to the Kissimmee Community Center, a DOC work release facility. As part of the work release program, Poillot began work at a construction company, where he was required to be at work from 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., Monday through Saturday. However, on July 29, 2014, Poillot left work early without permission. When he timely reported back to the work release center before 5:00 p.n., he was placed unler arrest for escape.

After a hearing, the trial court granted Poillot's motion to dismiss, ruling that the state could not make a prima facie case for escape.

Florida's Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed and reinstated the charge, and the case ultimately wound up before the Florida Supreme Court.

The question before the Supreme Court was whether leaving a work site constituted 'escape from confinement' under Florida law. The Supreme Court said it did, and affirmed the Fifth Circuit's decision reinstating the charge.

The Supreme Court cited to two provisions of Florida law to support its conclusion. One, Section 945.091(1), Florida Statutes, provides that the DOC may adopt rules "permitting the extension of the limits of the place of confinement of an inmate." And two, subsection (4) of that same statute says that the "willful failure of an inmate to remain within the extended limits of his or her confinement" shall be deemed "an escape from the custody of the department."

Because the work release program was an extension of the limits of Poillot's confinement, Poillot "escaped" when he "left his place of employment without permission" because he "willfully failed to remain within the extended limits of his confinement," the Supreme Court ruled.

Poillot's escape charge was thus reinstated and the case was remanded to the trial court for further proceedings. See: Poillot v. State of Florida, No. SC15-1691 (S. Ct. Fl.), September 8, 2016.

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Related legal case

Poillot v. State of Florida