Florida Court Discusses Impermissible Sentencing Considerations

It is not uncommon in criminal cases for the affidavit for an arrest warrant to contain facts and allegations the State is ultimately unable to prove at trial. If the defendant is ultimately convicted of the crimes with which he or she is charged if the information in the affidavit differs from the evidence presented at trial, the court cannot consider the information in the affidavit in determining an appropriate sentence. If the judge does consider unsubstantiated allegations in sentencing a defendant, it may be considered a violation of the defendant’s constitutional rights and is grounds for vacating the sentence. This was shown in a recent Florida appellate court case in which the defendant was convicted of various sex crimes.  If you are charged with a sex crime in Sarasota, it is prudent to speak with a capable Sarasota sex crime attorney to assess your available defenses.

Procedural Background of the Case

Reportedly, the defendant was charged with lewd and lascivious battery of a child and with using a child in a sexual performance. A jury trial was held, during which the State introduced evidence that the defendant was involved in a sexual encounter with the victim, who was underage, and that he made a video recording of the encounter. The jury convicted the defendant of both charges.

It is alleged that during the sentencing hearing, the judge stated she was sentencing the defendant based on the circumstances surrounding the offense. The judge then proceeded to recite facts that were in the affidavit in support of the defendant’s arrest, which were different than the evidence produced at trial. The defendant’s attorney called the judge’s attention to the fact that there was no evidence of record to support the circumstances the judge relied upon in crafting her sentence. The judge agreed but issued the sentence of fifteen years imprisonment followed by fifteen years of sex offender probation regardless. The defendant appealed.

A Trial Court’s Consideration of Unsubstantiated Allegations

Under Florida law, if a trial court considers unsubstantiated allegations of a defendant’s misconduct in issuing a sentence, it constitutes a violation of the defendant’s due process rights. Thus, where the record shows that a trial judge might have weighed impermissible considerations in deciding what sentence to impose, the State bears the burden of proving that the judge did not, in fact, rely on such considerations, based on the record as a whole. In the subject case, the court found that the State was unable to meet its burden of proof. Thus, the court remanded the matter for a new sentence to be issued by a different judge.

Confer with a Trusted Criminal Defense Attorney

If you are a resident of Sarasota faced with charges that you committed a sex crime, it is wise to confer with a trusted Sarasota sex crime attorney to determine what actions you may be able to take to protect your rights. Attorney William Hanlon of Hanlon Law is a proficient Sarasota attorney who will work tirelessly to help you seek the best legal result available in your case. You can reach Mr. Hanlon via the form online or at 941-462-1789 to set up a free and confidential conference.

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