Court Discusses Illegal Sentences in a Florida Sex Crime Case

In some instances in which a defendant is charged with a sex crime, the State’s evidence is compelling, and it is prudent for the defendant to enter a plea of nolo contendere to avoid receiving the maximum penalties permitted. Even if a defendant does not defend against criminal charges, however, any sentence issued must nonetheless be within the statutory limitations, and if they are not, may be vacated as illegal sentences, as discussed in a recent Florida case. If you are charged with a sex crime, it is advisable to contact an experienced Sarasota sex crime defense attorney regarding your options and potential penalties.

Factual and Procedural History of the Case

It is alleged that the defendant was charged with attempted sexual battery and attempted lascivious or lewd molestation, both of which were allegedly committed against a person less than twelve years old. The defendant entered a plea of nolo contendere, after which the court imposed concurrent sentences of twenty years imprisonment, followed by probation for life. The defendant appealed, arguing that the sentences were illegal because they exceeded the maximum penalties set forth by law for second-degree felonies. The trial court denied the motion, and the defendant appealed the denial.

Grounds for Vacating a Sentence in Florida

Under the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure, a court may correct an illegal sentence if the defendant affirmatively alleges that the court records, on their face, establish an entitlement to the relief requested. In the subject case, the court noted that sexual battery on a person under twelve years old is a first-degree felony that is punishable by up to thirty years in prison. Thus, the court found that the sentence of twenty years imprisonment followed by lifelong probation exceeded the statutory maximum and, as such, was illegal.

Specifically, the court noted that a defendant could not accept a plea bargain that exceeds that statutory maximum, and explained that when a combined sentence that includes incarceration and probation exceeds the statutory maximum, the sentence is illegal. The court found, though, that in cases involving injuries to the victim’s sex organs, sexual battery on a person under twelve is punishable by life imprisonment. As the record lacked the information needed to determine if the victim suffered injuries, the court remanded the case to determine if the sentence was appropriate.

Similarly, the court found that the attempted lewd and lascivious molestation was a second-degree felony that was punishable by a maximum of up to fifteen years. As the defendant was sentenced to twenty years imprisonment followed by lifelong probation for that crime as well, the court found that the sentence exceeded the statutory maximum and was therefore illegal. As such, the court reversed the sentence and remanded for resentencing.

Speak with a Trusted Criminal Defense Attorney

If you are a Sarasota resident faced with accusations you committed a sex crime, it is wise to consult an attorney to discuss your case. William Hanlon of Hanlon Law is a trusted Sarasota sex crime defense attorney with the skills and resources needed to help you seek the best results obtainable under the circumstances surrounding your charges.  Mr. Hanlon can be reached via the online form or at 941-462-1789 to set up a conference.

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