Articles Posted in Sentencing

People convicted as juveniles and sentenced to more than twenty years in prison are entitled to a sentence review after they have been imprisoned for twenty years. The sentencing court is not required to orally advise the defendant of such rights or set forth information regarding the right to review in the sentencing order, however. As such, the failure to do so will not constitute an error, as explained in a recent Florida opinion issued in a matter in which the defendant appealed his conviction. If you are charged with a crime, it is in your best interest to talk to a Tampa criminal defense attorney about what steps you can take to protect your rights.

Procedural History

It is reported that when the defendant was 16 years old, he was charged with multiple crimes after he allegedly attacked his foster mother. He was convicted on all counts. Prior to sentencing, he sought a downward sentence due to the fact that he needed specialized treatment for a medical condition. The state opposed the imposition of a departure sentence on the grounds that the defendant had a lengthy criminal past and his criminal conduct was escalating.

Allegedly, the court rejected the defendant’s request for a downward departure and sentenced him to a total of 35 years imprisonment. It did not mention the right to a sentence review or set forth anything about such rights in the written sentence. The defendant moved to correct a sentencing error, arguing that because he was a juvenile at the time of his conviction, he was entitled to judicial review after he completed twenty years of his sentence. His motion was deemed denied, and he appealed. Continue Reading ›

While identity theft typically does not cause bodily harm, it is nonetheless a serious crime, and many people convicted of such offenses can spend years in prison. Regardless of the nature of an offense, though, the punishment imposed must be reasonable; otherwise, it may be overturned. Recently, a Florida court examined what constitutes an appropriate sentence for aggravated identity theft and other offenses in a case in which it rejected the defendant’s appeal. If you are accused of a theft crime, it is in your best interest to speak to a Tampa theft crime defense lawyer about your options for seeking a favorable outcome.

Historical Background of the Case

Allegedly, the defendant was charged with aggravated identity theft and access device fraud in violation of federal law. He pled guilty to both charges pursuant to a written plea agreement. The facts in the plea agreement indicated that the defendant obtained personal identifying data from over 100 victims and then used the data to access dormant credit cards or obtain new cards.

Reportedly, he then used the cards in stores throughout the country and sold the materials he purchased with the cards on the internet. The total financial losses caused by the theft exceeded $650,000. The court accepted the defendant’s guilty plea, following the magistrate’s recommendation. It ultimately imposed a sentence of 96 months imprisonment, which was above the range set forth in the sentencing guidelines. The defendant appealed. Among other things, he argued that the sentence was unreasonable. Continue Reading ›

The United States Constitution includes numerous provisions that protect criminal defendants. Among other things, it dictates that they must be mentally competent before they can be tried for a criminal offense. Thus, if a criminal matter proceeds to trial despite concerns regarding a defendant’s mental competence, it may constitute a violation of their constitutional rights. Recently a Florida court explained what evidence a defendant must produce to show that a trial court harbored a bona fide doubt about their competence in a case in which the defendant appealed his sentence following his conviction for producing child pornography.  If you are charged with a sex offense, it is smart to meet with a dedicated Tampa sex crime defense lawyer to evaluate your possible defenses.

The Facts of the Case

It is reported that the defendant was charged with two counts of producing child pornography. The case proceeded to trial, and he was convicted. The court subsequently sentenced him to 720 months in prison. The defendant appealed, arguing, among other things, that the trial court committed an abuse of discretion by denying his motion to undergo a competency evaluation and hearing.

Establishing a Bona Fide Doubt About a Defendant’s Mental Competence

The court declined to adopt the defendant’s reasoning and denied his appeal. In doing so, it explained that it reviewed a district court’s failure to order a competency hearing under the abuse of discretion standard. Continue Reading ›

 Pursuant to Florida law, courts can impose greater penalties on people who are convicted of crimes if they were previously incarcerated. Only certain offenses allow for the imposition of increased sentences, though, and if a court improperly interprets the sentencing laws, the sentence imposed may be illegal. This was demonstrated in a recent Florida case in which the appellate court reversed a trial court ruling denying a defendant’s motion for resentencing. If you are charged with a crime, it is important to understand what sentences you may face if convicted, and you should speak to a knowledgeable Tampa criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.

Procedural History of the Case

It is alleged that the defendant was charged with and convicted of numerous crimes, including burglary of a conveyance with battery or assault. After the trial court imposed its sentence, the defendant moved to amend it, arguing that it was illegal in that he was improperly sentenced as a prison releasee reoffender in violation of Florida law. The trial court denied his motion, after which the defendant appealed. The appellate court summarily affirmed the trial court’s decision, and the defendant moved for a rehearing.

The coronavirus spread rapidly through many prisons, causing extreme illness, death, and fear of lasting health concerns. Thus, many inmates with concerning health issues have sought modifications of their sentences under the CARES Act and other federal statutes, but such requests are not readily granted. Recently, a Florida court issued an opinion explaining the grounds for reducing or changing a sentence in light of the pandemic in a case in which the petitioner was imprisoned for multiple theft crimes. If you are accused of stealing property or any other crime, it is advisable to confer with a skilled Tampa theft defense attorney to discuss your options.

The Defendant’s Petition

It is reported that the defendant was convicted of possessing unauthorized access devices and aggravated theft in violation of federal law and sentenced to thirty months imprisonment followed by three years of probation. He was housed at a federal prison. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the defendant petitioned the court for a modification of his sentence. Specifically, he requested a release to home confinement under the CARES Act or a compassionate release under federal law. Upon review, the court denied his petition.

Reductions and Modifications of Sentences

Typically, a court cannot change a term of imprisonment after it has been imposed. In other words, district courts have no inherent authority to alter a prison sentence and can only do so when permitted by statute or rule. The defendant first requested a modification of his sentence to home release pursuant to the CARES Act. The court noted, however, it lacked the authority to grant this relief.

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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

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