When a person is convicted of a crime, there are several factors that are considered in determining an appropriate sentence. For certain crimes, the court must employ a sentencing scoresheet to determine the minimum sentence that may be imposed. If a court does not properly classify the crimes for which the defendant was convicted on a sentencing scoresheet, however, it can result in an inappropriate sentence.
This was illustrated recently in a case heard by a Florida appellate court, in which the court reversed the defendant’s sentenced due to a scoresheet error. If you live in Sarasota and are currently facing criminal charges, you should meet with an experienced Sarasota crime defense attorney to formulate a plan for your defense.
Facts Surrounding the Defendant’s Arrest
Reportedly, the defendant was on probation for a drug charge when he was charged with armed kidnapping and robbery with a weapon. He entered a no contest plea to violating his probation, and the State offered a factual basis for his plea. The state alleged that three men entered a cell phone store, bound one of the employee’s arms behind her back, and stoles several phones. Prior to leaving, one of the men sprayed the employee in the face with pepper spray. A short time thereafter, a similar robbery occurred at a different cell phone store. The second store had surveillance video, which ultimately led to the defendant’s arrest. The defendant stipulated to the facts introduced by the State but argued that he played a lesser role in the crimes.
It is alleged that the sentencing scoresheet determined the defendant’s lowest permitted sentence to be approximately 10.2 years. The defendant filed a motion for a downward departure, arguing he did not have a weapon during the robberies and was a minor actor in committing the crimes. The court denied the motion and sentenced the defendant to fifteen years in prison. The defendant then filed a motion for reconsideration and a motion to correct a sentencing error, arguing the sentencing scoresheet contained errors. The defendant’s motion was denied, after which he appealed.
Kidnapping is a level 9 offense, as well as a felony. Under Florida law, felonies can be reclassified when a weapon is used during the commission of the crime. Specifically, they can be ranked one level higher than the ranking of the offense committed. When a defendant is charged with a felony that involves the use of a weapon, however, this reclassification is not permitted unless there is evidence that the defendant had actual possession of a weapon during the crime. In the subject case, the State conceded the defendant did not have a weapon during the commission of the crime. As such, the classification of the kidnapping as a level 10 offense was improper.
The defendant then argued that the record did not support the assessment of injury points on the sentencing scoresheet. The court disagreed, finding that the cell phone store employee’s testimony that she was sprayed with pepper spray, which is a potentially damaging chemical weapon was sufficient to show a slight victim injury. Ultimately, the court concluded the State could not show the same sentence would have been imposed absent the additional points that were assessed for the kidnapping offense. As such, the court reversed the defendant’s sentence and remanded for resentencing.
Retain an Experienced Sarasota Criminal Defense Attorney Today
If you are a Sarasota resident charged with a crime, it is prudent to meet with an experienced criminal defense attorney to discuss the charges you face and what evidence the State may introduce against you at trial. William Hanlon of Hanlon Law is a skilled Sarasota criminal defense attorney who will work diligently to help you seek a successful outcome under the facts of your case. You can reach Mr. Hanlon at 727-897-5413 or through the online form to schedule a consultation.