Florida Court Discusses Evidence Proving Violations of Sex Offender Probation

Many people convicted of sex crimes are fortunate enough to avoid jail time and are instead sentenced to probation. If a person sentenced to probation does not comply with the terms of his or her probation, the person’s probation may be revoked, and he or she may have to serve a prison sentence. The State must present cogent evidence that the acts of a person on probation constituted a violation in order to obtain a revocation, however, and if it cannot, a revocation may be unjust. This was demonstrated in a recent case in which a Florida appellate court reversed the revocation of a defendant’s probation, upon finding that the defendant’s possession of pornography did not constitute a violation of his probationary terms. If you are charged with a sex crime, it is prudent to speak with a trusted Sarasota sex crime defense attorney regarding your available defenses.

Factual Background of the Case

It is reported that the defendant was charged with possession of child pornography. He pled guilty in exchange for a lesser sentence of sex offender probation for ten years. The defendant received a letter memorializing the terms of his probation, which were later orally pronounced at his sentencing hearing. The probationary terms included the requirement that the defendant could not view, own, access, or possess any pornographic materials that were relevant to his pattern of deviant behavior.

Allegedly, in March 2019, the State filed an affidavit stating that the defendant violated the terms of his probation after it was revealed that the defendant had a pornographic magazine. During the defendant’s probation violation hearing, the defendant argued that the magazine did not violate the terms of his probation, because it depicted adults and was not relevant to the deviant behavior associated with the offense of owning child pornography. The court disagreed, and the defendant was sentenced to prison, after which he appealed.

Evidence of a Violation of Terms of Probation

On appeal, the court noted that for the defendant’s possession of pornography to violate his probation, it must be relevant to his pattern of deviant behavior. The court further explained this required an assessment of not only the pornographic material but also of the circumstances underlying the defendant’s offenses. The court clarified that the defendant was not prohibited from owning pornographic material in general, but only barred from owning pornographic material that was related to his deviant behavior.

Further, the court noted that the trial court did not set forth any findings regarding the nature of the materials owned by the defendant or whether it related to his prior behavior patterns. Instead, the only evidence before the trial court regarding the materials in question noted that the materials depicted adults and could be purchased by anyone over the age of eighteen. Thus, the court reversed the order revoking the defendant’s probation and remanded the case for a new trial.

Speak with an Experienced Sex Crime Defense Attorney

If you are a Sarasota resident currently charged with a sex crime, it is in your best interest to speak with an experienced attorney regarding your case. William Hanlon of Hanlon Law is a seasoned Sarasota sex crime defense attorney with the experience and skills required to help you strive for a favorable result. William Hanlon can be contacted at 941-462-1789 or via the form online to set up a confidential and free meeting.

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