Articles Posted in Sentencing

Pursuant to Florida law, while the courts have some discretion when sentencing people convicted of crimes, the sentences they administer must fall within the range dictated by the statutory guidelines. Accordingly, if a sentence exceeds a statutory maximum, it may be illegal and, therefore, may be subject to reversal. A Florida court recently discussed the grounds for reversing illegal sentences in a Florida case in which it granted the defendant’s request to vacate his sentences for aggravated battery and aggravated assault. If you are charged with assault, battery, or any other violent offense, it is smart to talk to a Sarasota violent crime defense lawyer to determine your rights.

Case Setting

It is alleged that the defendant faced convictions for two counts of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon and one count of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. The charges stemmed from an altercation where the defendant allegedly indiscriminately fired shots into a crowd, injuring multiple individuals.

Reportedly, witness testimony during the trial implicated the defendant as the perpetrator of the shooting. He was subsequently convicted by a jury and sentenced to 36 years in prison for each aggravated battery conviction and 36 years with a 20-year mandatory minimum for aggravated assault. The defendant appealed, challenging multiple aspects of his convictions and sentences, including the admission of certain evidence, jury instructions, and the legality of his sentences. Continue Reading ›

In Florida, when sentencing a person convicted of a crime, the courts will generally rely on statutory guidelines. The courts have the discretion to deviate from the guidelines, however, if the party seeking an upward or downward sentence demonstrates that a departure is warranted. In a recent opinion issued in a Florida case in which the defendant was convicted of multiple crimes following a deadly accident, the court discussed when a downward departure sentence is appropriate. If you are charged with manslaughter or any other crime following an accident, it is in your best interest to talk to a Sarasota criminal defense attorney about your rights.

Factual and Procedural History

It is reported that the defendant was charged with manslaughter and numerous other crimes after she was involved in a fatal car accident. A jury ultimately found her guilty of driving without a license causing serious bodily injury or death. She moved for a downward departure sentence, arguing that she was not the proximate cause of death as the other driver caused the accident. The trial court denied her motion, however, stating that it did not have the discretion to issue a downward departure sentence based on comparative liability for the injuries. Consequently, the defendant was sentenced to the minimum scoresheet of approximately 15 years in prison. She appealed, arguing that the trial court erred in concluding that it was prohibited from considering her comparative fault as a potential basis for a downward departure sentence.

Determining Whether a Downward Departure Sentence is Appropriate

The court explains that determining the appropriateness of a downward departure sentence involves a two-step process. First, the court must ascertain whether there is a valid legal ground for the departure, as set forth in a statute or case law, and supported by facts proven by a preponderance of the evidence. Second, if a valid legal ground exists, the court must determine whether the departure is the best sentencing option by evaluating the totality of the circumstances.

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The state staunchly prosecutes violent crimes, and people convicted of such offenses are often sentenced to lengthy prison terms. There are statutory limits pertaining to sentences for violent crimes, however, and if a sentence imposed by a court exceeds the statutory guidelines, it may be illegal. Recently, a Florida court discussed what constitutes an illegal sentence in a case in which the defendant sought to correct a sentence imposed for aggravated assault. If you are charged with a violent crime, it is smart to consult a Sarasota criminal defense attorney to assess your options for pursuing a good outcome.

Procedural Background

Allegedly, the defendant was charged with manslaughter and aggravated assault. A jury convicted him following a trial, and the jury explicitly found that he discharged a gun when he committed the crimes. The trial court then issued a sentence of twenty years in prison for the aggravated assault count and thirty years for the manslaughter count, which were the statutory minimums. The court relied on the jury’s findings in issuing the sentences.

It is reported that the defendant then appealed, arguing that the sentence for his aggravated assault conviction was illegal. He also filed a motion arguing that because a firearm was an essential element of both crimes, his convictions were improperly reclassified, and therefore, his sentences exceeded the statutory limit. Continue Reading ›

In many cases, a defendant who is convicted of a crime will be sentenced to probation. If a defendant violates the terms of the probation, however, the court may revoke the probation and sentence to the defendant to a term of imprisonment. Recently, a Florida appellate court discussed a defendant’s rights in probation revocation hearings in a case in which the defendant’s probation was revoked due to an alleged sexual assault. If you live in Sarasota and are faced with charges of sexual assault or any other crime, it is prudent to meet with a dedicated  Sarasota sex crime defense attorney regarding your case.

Factual and Procedural Background

It is reported that the defendant was charged with aggravated child abuse. He entered into a plea agreement with the State and was sentenced to probation for 36 months. Subsequently, the State alleged that the defendant violated his probation by committing two acts of sexual assault. The violation report listed the offenses as the sexual battery on a victim under twelve by a person eighteen years or older. A trial was held regarding the alleged charges.

Allegedly, at the end of the trial, prior to the jury’s decision, an evidentiary hearing was held on the alleged probation violation. The court revoked the defendant’s probation without allowing the defendant to speak and sentenced the defendant to five years of imprisonment. The defendant was subsequently found not guilty of sexual assault crimes. The jury submitted a note to the judge stated that they believed the defendant committed an illegal act, but the evidence was insufficient to prove the crime charged.

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The Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution protects a criminal defendant who is convicted of a crime from cruel and unusual punishment. The Constitution does not define cruel and unusual punishment, however, so the courts have been tasked with interpreting whether a sentence is barred by the Eighth Amendment. In cases involving juvenile homicide offenders, the Florida courts have held that a sentence that does not provide a meaningful chance for release are improper under the Eighth Amendment.

Recently, a Florida appellate court scrutinized whether a sentence of life in prison with judicial review after 25 years was cruel and unusual punishment, ultimately ruling that it was not. If you are charged with a violent crime in Sarasota, it is essential to retain a skillful Sarasota criminal defense attorney to assist you in formulating a defense.

The Defendant’s Conviction and Sentence

Reportedly, the defendant was convicted of first-degree murder in 1985, for a crime he committed when he was a juvenile. He was first sentenced to life in prison with a possibility of parole after twenty-five years. In 2016, he moved for post-conviction relief in the form of resentencing, arguing that his sentence violated the Eighth Amendment. Following a hearing, he was resentenced to life in prison with judicial review after twenty-five years. The defendant subsequently appealed the new sentence. On appeal, the court affirmed.

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In some cases, rather than sentence a person convicted of a crime to imprisonment, a court will impose probation. A probation sentence typically includes conditions that the defendant must abide by. If a defendant fails to comply with the terms of his or her probation, probation may be revoked and a stricter sentence may be imposed.

As set forth in a case recently decided by a Florida appellate court, however, not all probation violations are grounds for revocation. If you live in Sarasota and are facing criminal charges, it is prudent to consult a seasoned Sarasota criminal defense attorney to assist you in formulating a defense.

Terms of the Defendant’s Probation

The defendant was convicted of welfare fraud and sentenced to probation. There were several conditions to her probation, including the conditions that she “will pay” court costs and that she “may perform” community service in lieu of paying court costs. The defendant did not pay the court costs or perform community service. Consequently, the State moved for a revocation of probation. During the revocation proceeding, the court did not assess whether the defendant had the ability to pay the court costs, but found that the defendant had the ability to perform community service. Thus, the court revoked her probation. The defendant then appealed the revocation of her probation.

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When a person is convicted of a crime, there are several factors that are considered in determining an appropriate sentence. For certain crimes, the court must employ a sentencing scoresheet to determine the minimum sentence that may be imposed. If a court does not properly classify the crimes for which the defendant was convicted on a sentencing scoresheet, however, it can result in an inappropriate sentence.

This was illustrated recently in a case heard by a Florida appellate court, in which the court reversed the defendant’s sentenced due to a scoresheet error.  If you live in Sarasota and are currently facing criminal charges, you should meet with an experienced Sarasota crime defense attorney to formulate a plan for your defense.

Facts Surrounding the Defendant’s Arrest

Reportedly, the defendant was on probation for a drug charge when he was charged with armed kidnapping and robbery with a weapon. He entered a no contest plea to violating his probation, and the State offered a factual basis for his plea. The state alleged that three men entered a cell phone store, bound one of the employee’s arms behind her back, and stoles several phones. Prior to leaving, one of the men sprayed the employee in the face with pepper spray. A short time thereafter, a similar robbery occurred at a different cell phone store. The second store had surveillance video, which ultimately led to the defendant’s arrest. The defendant stipulated to the facts introduced by the State but argued that he played a lesser role in the crimes.

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