With hurricanes, the demand tourist attractions, and the steadily growing population, South Florida has long been a hotbed of construction activity. However, like many professionals, the State of Florida requires that contractors be licensed by the State.
Contracting Without A License
Posted By Eric Matheny
To summarize Florida law's definition of a "contractor," it is "the person who is qualified for, and shall only be responsible for, the project contracted for..." That means, the contractor is the project manager; the person who is hired to do the ultimate job, whether it is a remodel or the actual building of a new home. The contractor is the person you hire to do the job.
Contracting without a license is a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by 1 year in jail, 1 year probation, and a $1,000 fine.
Also, when dealing with contracting without a license cases, restitution is always an issue as the alleged victim will seek compensation for the work performed by an unlicensed contractor.
It should be noted that any unlicensed person who commits the crime of contracting without a license after having been previously found guilty of contracting without a license commits a felony of the third-degree, punishable by up to 5 years in prison.
Additionally, if the cost of the project is over $300, the State Attorney's Office has been known to charge people with the crime of grand theft, as the State says that it is "theft by deception" to obtain money for a contracting job when the alleged victim believes that you are licensed.
Also, if you commit the crime of contracting without a license during a state of emergency as declared by the Governor (such as during a hurricane), you commit a felony of the third-degree as well.
Contracting without a license is a defensible charge. This is because it is common for an unlicensed person to work under the license of a "qualifying agent." This qualifying agent is the person who permits the unlicensed person to work underneath them. In this situation, a person cannot be convicted of contracting without a license because they are protected by the qualifying agent's license.
In terms of penalties, Pretrial Diversion (PTD) is typically available for first-time offenders when the alleged victim agrees and the cost of the construction is not too high. Restitution will likely be a condition of PTD. As always, completion of PTD means that the charge is dismissed. If the client is eligible, they may have their arrest expunged.
If the contracting without a license charge is accompanied by a felony grand theft charge, Pretrial Intervention (PTI) may be available provided the restitution amount is under $5,000. If the restitution amount exceeds $5,000, the accused may sometimes "pay down" the restitution in advance in order to get the balance under $5,000. Then they can enroll in PTI and earn the dismissal upon completion.
When I was a Miami-Dade prosecutor, I saw contracting without a license cases where the restitution exceeded $100,000. In that case, the defendant was also charged with first-degree grand theft, facing 30 years in prison due to the high value.
As I have mentioned on many previous posts, cases where alleged victims are actively involved in the prosecutions spell trouble for accused people. State Attorneys are elected officials, and they get re-elected by keeping their citizens happy. When victims feel that they are not being heard, they go to the newspapers, who in turn will slam the elected State Attorneys. It's vicious and unfair political nonsense, but it happens everyday. These are political offices, and politics will come into play when an alleged victim wants blood.
I have dealt with these matters many times. I practice criminal defense in South Florida, representing clients charged with a variety of crimes, including contracting without a license.
Call me to schedule a consultation so that we may further discuss your case.