Plea deals are an important potential tool for anyone charged with a crime in Florida. They allow you to resolve the charges and move on with your life, often with a reduced punishment. It’s important to understand, however, that in most cases you can’t take back a plea deal once you’ve been convicted. One important exception to that rule is in cases in which new evidence tends to show that you didn’t commit the crime with which you were charged. Florida’s Third District Court of Appeal recently explained how courts look at newly discovered evidence in Florida lewd and lascivious molestation cases.
A defendant was charged with two counts of committing a lewd and lascivious act in 1997, stemming from allegations that he molested his stepdaughters. The girls were six and seven years old at the time. The defendant eventually reached a deal with prosecutors. He pleaded no contest to the charges in exchange for 10 years of probation with the opportunity for early termination after five years. He went back to court in 2015 and asked a judge to withdraw his conviction based on new evidence. He presented statements from the two victims, who said they lied to police about the incidents. Although the women also later testified at a hearing that they had lied to police during an interview, a trial judge denied the defendant’s request. The judge said he “ha[d] not demonstrated a manifest injustice based on actual innocence.”
But the Third District reversed the decision on appeal. The court said the trial judge used the wrong standard to consider the defendant’s request. It pointed to the Florida Supreme Court’s 2016 decision in Long v. State. The high court in that case laid out a two-pronged test for considering a request to scrap a conviction based on new evidence.