Articles Posted in Sentencing

Florida law affords individuals convicted of crimes certain rights with regards to sentencing. For example, certain sentences must be orally pronounced, and with few exceptions, a defendant has the right to be present at his or her sentencing hearing.

As the District Court of Appeal for the Second District of Florida recently held in Darwin v. Florida, if the trial court imposes a sentence without the presence of the convicted party, it can result in the sentence being reversed. If you were charged with a sex-crime in Clearwater, it is important to retain an experienced Clearwater sex crimes attorney who will fight diligently to protect your liberties.

Defendant’s Sentencing

Allegedly, the defendant was convicted and sentenced for uninformed HIV-infected sexual intercourse. His sentence included a $525 discretionary fine. During the sentencing hearing, the fine was not orally pronounced; therefore, the defendant filed a motion to correct the sentence, arguing that the fine was improperly imposed due to the fact that Florida law requires discretionary fines to be orally pronounced to ensure due process. The trial court agreed and scheduled a status conference during which the court orally pronounced the fine, but made no other changes to the sentence. The defendant was not present at the status conference. He subsequently appealed the discretionary fine, arguing that the trial court erred by imposing the sentence without his presence at the hearing. The court agreed and reversed.

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Florida law allows a defendant to have their sentence reduced in certain specific situations. This is called a “downward departure.” Generally, defendants are eligible for a downward departure in their sentence when there has been a specific extenuating circumstance that makes a downward departure just. Your knowledgeable Clearwater criminal defense attorney can tell you whether you may be eligible for a downward departure based on the circumstances of your case.

Florida Downward Departure Law

When someone is convicted of a felony in Florida, they are sentenced using guidelines in the Florida Criminal Punishment Code. Essentially, the code has a scoresheet that it uses to determine the amount of prison time that someone should serve. However, in some cases with extenuating circumstances, the court may want to sentence the defendant to less than the minimum sentence determined by the code. This is called a downward departure. Courts can issue a downward departure provided that two conditions are met.

The first thing that the court must find for a downward departure is that there is evidence of mitigating circumstances that supports a downward departure. The code lays out 14 circumstances that may be considered mitigating for a downward departure. These include: the defendant was a relatively minor accomplice, the departure comes from a plea bargain, the defendant’s capacity was substantially impaired, the defendant requires specialized mental health treatment, or the defendant was going to be sentenced as a youthful offender.

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If you are convicted of a crime in Florida, the state has many different options regarding punishment for that crime. For example, states can force people to pay restitution or fines, and give people probation or jail time. However, there are laws around the kind of sentence someone gets. These laws include principles based on the Constitution, like fundamental fairness. In a case recently heard by the Second District Court of Appeals in Florida, a sentence given to a defendant was found to violate the Fourteenth Amendment’s requirement of fairness. This case helps to illustrate why it is so important to contact a knowledgeable Clearwater criminal defense attorney if you or a loved one has been charged with a crime.

Plea Bargains

The vast majority of defendants who are charged with a crime will end up pleading guilty. Prosecutors will frequently offer a reduced sentence to defendants who are willing to plead guilty to some or all of the charges against them. However, just because a defendant agrees to the guilty plea does not mean that it relieves the state from having to follow the laws around sentencing. In other words, if the sentence violates the Constitution, it is illegal whether or not the defendant agreed to it.

In many cases, a person convicted of a Florida crime Florida may have the option to stay out of prison on parole, probation or another form of supervised release. State judges, however, have some significant leeway to put people behind bars if they are deemed a threat to the public. A recent decision out of Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeal sets some limits on that authority.

Defendant was charged with multiple counts of providing false information to law enforcement in a missing child investigation. He shared a home with the child’s mother and allegedly made a number of false statements about the child’s whereabouts when she went missing. That included telling a police officer that the child was with her grandmother, and later that she had been taken to a local fire station. He eventually admitted to the cops that he believed the child was dead. Defendant said he’d left the home for a couple months after having a fight with the child’s mother. When he returned, Defendant said the mother told him, “If you love me, you will forgive me,” but refused to say what she had done wrong.

Defendant eventually told officers to look for the child’s body in the backyard of the home he had shared with the mother. The child’s skeletal remains were eventually found in the backyard. Defendant said he initially lied to the police because he “was in love and being stupid.” He was eventually convicted on the counts of providing false information to the police officers.

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