The COVID-19 pandemic has altered many aspects of criminal cases. For example, many criminal trials were delayed or conducted remotely, and some prisoners were able to obtain compassionate release due to the risk of contracting the coronavirus. As discussed in a recent Florida opinion issued in a theft case, though, COVID-19, in and of itself, is not a sufficient reason to grant a downward departure sentence. If you are accused of a theft offense, it is prudent to meet with a trusted Sarasota theft crime defense attorney to assess your options.
The Facts of the Case
It is alleged that the defendant was charged with felony petit theft for taking sunglasses from a store without paying. He failed to appear at a hearing, and the charges against him were amended to include a charge for failure to appear. He was arrested and spent ten months in jail. At a hearing for pretrial release, his attorney requested the lowest permitted sentence of fifty-five months in prison. The State rejected the offer, citing his extensive criminal history.
Reportedly, the trial court asked the state to confirm the lowest permissible sentence, then proposed that if the defendant pled guilty, it would issue a downward departure sentence due to COVID-19. The state objected, but the court sentenced the defendant to two years of probation. The state appealed.