Florida Court Discusses a Defendant’s Rights at a Probation Revocation Hearing

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court discussed a defendant’s rights in probation revocation hearings in a case in which the defendant’s probation was revoked due to an alleged sexual assault.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.

The defendant subsequently appealed his probation revocation, arguing that the affidavit regarding his violation was insufficient and that the trial court erred in denying him an opportunity to speak. The court affirmed the revocation but vacated the sentenced and remanded the case for resentencing.

Sufficiency of a Probation Violation Affidavit

Under Florida law, it is a fundamental error for a trial court to revoke probation based on grounds not alleged in the probation affidavit. A probation revocation hearing may be informal, however, and is not required to be as thorough as a criminal trial. Further, a court can revoke probation even if a defendant is not formally convicted of a crime.

In the subject case, the affidavit the court relied on upon revoking the defendant’s probation alleged that the defendant was arrested for sexual assault. The court conceded that the defendant was correct in arguing that sexual assault was not a crime under Florida law, but stated that the defendant had notice of the offenses he was charged with due to the violation report that was submitted with the affidavit. Thus, the court found that the defendant’s rights were not violated due to the lack of a specific affidavit.

A Defendant’s Right to Be Heard at a Probation Revocation Hearing

Conversely, the court noted that a trial court’s refusal to hear evidence and argument pertaining to a sentence constitutes a fundamental error and is a denial of due process. As the trial court judge stated his intention to impose the maximum sentence regardless of any argument, the court revoked the sentence and remanded for resentencing.

Speak with a Trusted Criminal Defense Attorney

If you live in Sarasota and are faced with charges of a sex crime, it is critical to speak with a trusted Sarasota sex crime defense attorney regarding your case and what defenses you may be able to argue. Attorney William Hanlon of Hanlon Law is a seasoned criminal defense attorney with the knowledge and skills needed to help you seek a successful outcome. You can reach Mr. Hanlon through the form online or at 941-462-1789 to set up a meeting to discuss your charges.

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