Articles Posted in Sentencing

First-degree murder is one of the most serious crimes the State can charge a person with, and a conviction has the potential to result in a death sentence. Generally, the State must prove that certain aggravating factors were present during the commission of a homicide crime for a person to be sentenced to death. The State’s burden in seeking the death penalty was the topic of a recent Florida opinion, in a case in which the defendant appealed his death sentences after following first-degree murder convictions. If you are charged with a violent crime, it is critical to speak to a seasoned Tampa criminal defense attorney to assess your potential defenses.

The Trial and Sentencing

It is reported that the defendant and the victim, his ex-girlfriend, were estranged, and the defendant was subject to a restraining order that prohibited him from contacting the victim. He suspected that she was dating another man, and he ransacked her home while she was out. She called the police but declined to press charges. The following day, he attended a hearing on another criminal matter, then called the victim and spoke to her for several minutes.

Allegedly, the defendant then proceeded to buy ammunition, travel to the victim’s home and shot the victim and one of her friends who was in the home with her. He attempted to shoot her boyfriend and another friend as well. He was charged with and convicted of multiple first-degree murder crimes and sentenced to death for each murder. He appealed, arguing in part that the trial court erred in instructing the jury and finding the murder was committed in a calculated, cold, and premediated manner which constituted an aggravating factor and lead to his death sentences.

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Florida Court Discusses Categorization of Other Crimes During Sentencing

There are numerous factors that the court will weigh in determining what constitutes an appropriate sentence for a person convicted of a crime, including whether the defendant has a prior criminal record or has other criminal charges that are pending. It is critical that a defendant’s other criminal activity be properly classified; however, an improper classification may result in an unjust sentence. This was demonstrated in a recent Florida case in which a defendant’s prior convictions were mischaracterized as additional offenses, resulting in a lengthy prison sentence. If you are accused of committing a criminal offense, it is prudent to speak to a trusted Tampa criminal defense attorney to discuss your options for seeking a just result.

History of the Case

It is reported that the defendant was charged with and convicted of four separate offenses in 2014. He was sentenced to three years in prison followed by a year and a half of probation. At the beginning of his probationary period, the defendant committed new offenses. He was then charged with both violating his probation and with committing the new offenses. Following his sentencing hearing, he filed an appeal, arguing that his scoresheet had errors that required reversal. The appeal was granted, and during his second sentencing hearing, the 2014 crimes were deemed additional offenses, and the 2018 crimes were listed as primary offenses. The defendant then filed a second appeal.

Categorizing Other Criminal Activity for Sentencing

Under Florida law, only one crime can be classified as the primary offense. Typically, it is the most severe crime. Every other crime will be listed as an additional offense, which is the term used for crimes other than the primary offense the defendant was convicted of committing, and which are pending before the court for sentencing at the same time as the primary offense.

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Probable Cause for an Involuntarily Commitment Hearing

In many instances, a person convicted of a sex crime in Florida may be involuntarily committed pursuant to the Jimmy Ryce Act (the Act). Individuals committed under the Act are subject to a yearly review of their status, though, to determine if there is evidence demonstrating that their condition has changed so that they no longer present a threat to society and can safely be released. In a recent case in which the defendant was involuntarily committed following a conviction for attempted sexual battery, a Florida court discussed what constitutes probable cause to warrant a hearing to assess whether a defendant’s condition has changed. If you are charged with an offense that is sexual in nature, it is advisable to confer with an assertive Tampa sex crime defense attorney to determine your options for seeking a favorable result under the circumstances.

Factual History

It is reported that the defendant was charged with and convicted of exposure of his sexual organs and attempted sexual battery in 1999. He was convicted and, after serving nine months of his sentence, was involuntarily committed pursuant to the Act. In 2018, during the defendant’s annual review, the defendant produced two expert reports that stated that the defendant had made significant progress in the program for sex offenders that he participated in and no longer needed to be committed. The State produced a conflicting report, however, that opined that the defendant was unable or unwilling to control his sexual preoccupations and that if he was released, he was likely to commit crimes. The court ultimately found that there was not probable cause to believe that the defendant’s condition had changed so that it was now safe for him to be among the public. As such, the court declined to set the matter for trial. The defendant appealed.

Probable Cause to Warrant a Hearing on a Defendant’s Changed Condition

A person that is committed against his or her will under the Act has the right to an annual review. Specifically, the Act provides for a limited hearing to evaluate whether there is probable cause to believe that the person’s condition has changed to such a degree that the person no longer poses a threat to society and will not engage in acts of sexual violence if he or she is discharged.

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Florida’s sentencing guidelines set forth the minimum and maximum sentences that may be imposed for specific crimes. In addition to the standard sentence, the guidelines allow for enhancements if certain elements are met. There are requirements that must be met before an enhanced sentence can be imposed, however, as explained in a case recently decided by the District Court of Appeals of the Fifth District, in which the defendant was sentenced to an enhanced penalty following assault and battery convictions. If you are charged with assault, battery, or any other violent crime it is vital to engage a capable Tampa criminal defense attorney to assist you in formulating a defense and protecting your rights.

Facts Regarding the Charges and Conviction

The defendant was charged with aggravated battery and aggravated assault. The information alleged that the defendant committed an aggravated battery in the alternative. In other words, it alleged that the defendant used a firearm or knowingly caused great bodily harm in committing the battery. Following a trial, he was convicted of both counts. Regarding the aggravated battery charge, the jury included a special verdict that stated that the defendant possessed and discharged a firearm causing great bodily harm. Similarly, the guilty verdict for the aggravated assault charge contained a special verdict stating the defendant possessed and displayed a firearm in the course of committing the crime. The defendant was subsequently sentenced to twenty-five years imprisonment for each charge, after which he moved to correct the sentences, arguing they were illegal.

Enhanced Sentences

The post-conviction relief court granted the defendant relief as to the sentence for the assault charge. Thus, the appellate court only addressed whether the sentence for the battery charge was proper. The court noted that if a person is convicted of aggravated battery in which he or she discharged a firearm and as a result of the discharge caused great bodily harm, the person will be sentenced to an enhanced minimum sentence of twenty-five years imprisonment. To pursue an enhanced mandatory sentence due to the use of a firearm, however, the State is required to set forth the grounds for the enhancement in the charging document. The State’s failure to precisely charge the elements cannot be cured by a jury’s findings.
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Under Florida law, if a defendant is convicted of a crime, the penalty imposed will depend on several factors, including the nature of the crime, the defendant’s criminal history, and the likelihood the defendant will commit another criminal offense. In some cases, the court will sentence a defendant to probation in lieu of jail time. A defendant sentenced to probation must comply with the terms and conditions of probation which are set by the court at the time of sentencing.

If a defendant violates any of the terms of probation it can result in a revocation of probation and a sentence of imprisonment. A Florida appellate court recently analyzed the State’s burden of proof in showing a defendant’s probation violation warrants revocation, in a case in which the defendant’s violation was revoked due to a willful violation.  If you are charged with a probation violation in Tampa, it is critical to speak with a trusted Tampa criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to prepare a defense.

Facts Regarding the Defendant’s Probation

In some cases, it is beneficial to enter a guilty plea to criminal charges. It is essential that prior to entering a guilty plea a defendant understands the full extent of penalties he or she may face. If a defendant pleads guilty to a crime but is not fully informed of the potential sentences for the crime, he or she may be able to withdraw the plea.

A Florida appellate court recently addressed the standard for allowing a defendant to withdraw a plea after a conviction, in a case in which the defendant was not informed of mandatory sentencing requirements prior to entering his plea. If you are Tampa resident facing criminal charges, you should meet with a capable Tampa criminal defense attorney to discuss the potential penalties for the charges you face.

Facts Regarding the Defendant’s Plea and Sentencing

Reportedly, the defendant was involved in a motor vehicle collision in which he rear-ended another vehicle. The driver of the other vehicle was paralyzed and the defendant was charged with DUI involving serious bodily injury to another.  The trial court advised the defendant during a change of plea colloquy that his driver’s license may be suspended “for additional periods” if he pled guilty to a drug offense. The court did not mention any other revocation. The defendant plead guilty, after which the State requested that the court permanently revoke the defendant’s driver’s license. Further, the State noted that the statutory minimum revocation was for three years.

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Criminal defendants who plead guilty or no contest to criminal charges or are convicted of crimes following a trial may be sentenced to a term of probation in lieu of incarceration. Standard terms of probation typically include the requirement that the defendant refrains from violating any laws or committing any new offenses. If the State alleges a defendant on probation committed an offense, it can result in a revocation of the probation and increased penalties.

Recently, a Florida appellate court discussed the State’s burden of proof in revocation hearings, in a case in which the court reversed a trial court’s finding that the defendant had committed a crime. If you reside in Tampa and are facing criminal charges or the potential of revocation of your probation, it is in your best interest to consult a skilled Tampa criminal defense attorney to help you in your efforts to retain your rights and protect your future.

Facts of the Case

Reportedly, the defendant was on probation for various crimes. During his probation, it was alleged that he committed new offenses, thereby violating his probation. Specifically, it was alleged that he used cocaine and committed the offenses of theft, dealt in stolen property, and provided false verification of ownership to a secondhand dealer. A probation revocation hearing was held, after which the court found the defendant violated his probation by committing the alleged offenses and revoked his probation. The defendant appealed, arguing in part, that there was insufficient evidence he provided false verification of ownership to a secondhand dealer.

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If a defendant is convicted of a felony charge, the court will employ a sentencing scoresheet to determine what it believes to be an appropriate sentence. If a scoresheet includes points which should not be attributed to the defendant, it can result in an inappropriately high sentence. The points assessed against a defendant will not be disturbed, however, unless it is shown the court’s award of the points constituted an abuse of discretion.

For example, a district appellate court of Florida recently rejected a defendant’s argument that his sentencing scoresheet improperly included points for victim injury, finding the evidence of record clearly indicated the victims were injured. If you live in Tampa and are facing criminal charges, it is important to retain an experienced Tampa criminal defense attorney who will fight diligently to help you in your pursuit of a successful outcome under the circumstances.

Facts Regarding the Alleged Crimes

Reportedly, the defendant entered a bank and forced multiple tellers to go into the bank’s vault at gunpoint. He hit each of the tellers over the head and sexually assaulted one of the tellers. When he was fleeing the scene, he fired his gun at approaching officers. He was detained and charged with several counts, including attempted murder, aggravated battery with a firearm, sexual battery, kidnapping with a firearm and aggravated assault with a firearm.

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Under the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA), if a person convicted of a crime is deemed a career criminal, he or she may face increased penalties. The United States Supreme Court recently ruled in Johnson v. United States, that the residual clause in the ACCA was unconstitutionally vague. As such, offenders previously sentenced to increased prison terms under the residual clause of the ACCA may be eligible for a reduced sentence. Each case must be evaluated on an individual basis, however, to determine whether the Johnson ruling will affect an enhanced sentence.

Recently, in a case appealed from the Southern District of Florida, a federal appellate court ruled that attempted murder is a violent felony and therefore grounds for increased penalties under the ACCA. If you are a resident of Tampa who has prior convictions and are currently facing criminal charges, you should meet with a knowledgeable Tampa criminal defense attorney to discuss your available options and defenses.

Defendant’s Prior and Current Convictions

Reportedly, the defendant was convicted in Florida for first-degree attempted murder. He was subsequently charged with being a felon in possession of ammunition. He was tried and convicted of the charges. The defendant’s presentence investigation report showed he was subject to an enhanced sentence under the ACCA for attempted first-degree murder, armed robbery, and aggravated battery. He was sentenced to 204 months in prison. Following the Johnson ruling, he filed a motion to reduce his enhanced sentence, arguing his prior convictions could no longer be considered violent felonies. His motion was dismissed. The defendant then appealed on the issue of whether his conviction for attempted first-degree murder constituted a violent felony. On appeal, the court affirmed his enhanced sentence.

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In each criminal case, the defendant must choose which plea to enter, and in some cases it is prudent for a defendant to enter a guilty plea. Even if a defendant waives his or her right to a trial by conceding guilt, however, he or she is still afforded certain rights with regard to sentencing.

A district court in Florida recently vacated a sentence in a DUI case and remanded the case for resentencing, due to an error made by the trial court in the evidence considered in sentencing the defendant. If you are a Tampa resident charged with a crime, it is important to retain an experienced attorney who can assist you in trying to prevent the state from introducing any prohibited evidence against you.

Charges and Sentencing

Reportedly, the defendant was charged with DUI manslaughter following a fatal crash and entered an open guilty plea. During the defendant’s sentencing, the sentencing scoresheet submitted listed eleven prior offenses, each of which occurred in or before 1999. The total points for the defendant’s prior record, as indicated by the scoresheet, was 9.4. The trial court sentenced the defendant to 132 months’ imprisonment, with a mandatory four year sentence, to be followed by two years of community control and two years of probation. The defendant subsequently appealed. On appeal, the defendant argued that none of the prior offenses on his sentencing scoresheet should have been listed due to the age of the offense.

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