Florida Court Explains Grounds for Downward Departure Sentences

The Florida legislature enacted statutory guidelines that the courts use when sentencing people convicted of violating state law. Sentencing courts have discretion, however, and can deliver downward departure sentences if they believe they are warranted under the circumstances. Recently, a Florida court examined when a downward departure sentence is appropriate in a burglary case in which it ultimately reversed a downward departure sentence on the grounds that it was not supported by competent evidence. If you were charged with burglary or any other theft offense, it is wise to talk to a Sarasota theft crime defense attorney about your possible defenses.

The Facts of the Case

It is alleged that he was charged with grand theft and burglary of an occupied dwelling in 2019 following an incident in which he drove a co-defendant to a residence, waited while the codefendant broke a window and entered the home, and then drove the co-defendant away. They were later stopped with $15,000 worth of jewelry that had been taken from the home.

Reportedly, while the defendant was awaiting trial for the subject charges, he was convicted of other charges of burglary of an unoccupied dwelling and grand theft. The defendant then moved for a downward departure in the subject case, arguing that the offenses were committed in an unsophisticated manner and were isolated incidents. The court granted the defendant’s motion over the State’s objection, and the State appealed.

Grounds for Delivering a Downward Departure Sentence

On appeal, the court reversed the trial court ruling. In reviewing a downward departure sentence, a court must examine whether the trial court applied the right rule of law and whether there is substantial and competent evidence supporting the trial court’s decision to impose a downward departure sentence.

In evaluating the evidence relied upon by the trial court, the court must assess the sufficiency, instead of the weight, of the evidence. Further, if the court finds that the trial court’s reason for the downward departure complies with the law and is supported by adequate evidence, it must then assess whether the downward departure sentence was the most appropriate sentencing option for the defendant after weighing a totality of the evidence.

There are numerous factors the court should examine when conducting its assessment, including whether the offense was an isolated incident committed in an unsophisticated manner for which the defendant expressed remorse. In the subject case, the trial court found that the defendant expressed remorse but did not find that his crimes were unsophisticated or that they were isolated incidents. Thus, the court vacated the sentence and remanded the matter for further proceedings.

Talk to an Experienced Sarasota Criminal Defense Attorney

While the courts have the authority to deviate from the sentencing guidelines in some cases, people convicted of other theft crimes are often sentenced to lengthy terms of confinement. If you are accused of burglary or any other theft offense, it is prudent to meet with an attorney to evaluate your options. The experienced Sarasota criminal defense lawyers of Hanlon Law can inform you of your rights and help you to seek the best legal result available under the circumstances. You can contact Hanlon Law through the online form or by calling 941-462-1789 to set up a conference.

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