Public Danger and Sentencing in Florida Criminal Cases

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.

Although a sentencing report indicated that he should not be given prison time, the trial judge found that Defendant was a danger to the public. The judge said specifically that Defendant had put other children at risk and that he delayed the investigation by lying to the cops. As a result, the judge sentenced Defendant to five years in prison.

Reversing the decision on appeal, the Fourth District said there wasn’t sufficient evidence to support the judge’s finding that Defendant was a danger to the public.

“The trial court did not explain how appellant’s actions ‘put other young children at risk,’” the court said. “Nor did the trial court state how the lies appellant told on January 9 delayed the investigation when he confessed the very next day and the remains were found a day or two later.”

The appeals court also noted that Defendant didn’t have a criminal record and appeared to lack the propensity to commit additional crimes. As a result, the court sent the case back to the trial judge with instructions that Defendant be resentenced.

If you or a loved one has been charged with a sex crime in Florida, it is essential that you seek the advice and counsel of an experienced lawyer. Clearwater sex crime attorney Will Hanlon is a seasoned lawyer who fights aggressively on behalf of clients charged with a wide range of offenses. Call our offices at (727) 897-5413 or contact us online to speak with Mr. Hanlon about your case.

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