Articles Posted in Probation Violation

Plea deals can be a valuable tool for anyone charged with a crime in Florida. These arrangements allow a person to start to move on with his or her life after being charged with a Florida gun crime or another offense by working out a resolution that often includes a lesser punishment in exchange for pleading guilty. It is important, however, for anyone considering a plea deal to understand that the punishment can be enhanced if you don’t abide by the terms of the deal. Florida’s Fifth District Court of Appeal recently took on the case of a Florida man who was thrown behind bars after allegedly violating the terms of his house arrest.

barbed wireThe defendant entered into a plea deal with Florida prosecutors after he was charged with armed robbery, grand theft, and petit theft. He agreed to plead guilty to the grand theft charge, and the prosecutors agreed to drop the other charges. He was sentenced to two years of supervised house arrest, followed by three years of probation. As part of the house arrest, he was required to stay at his home and permitted to leave the property only for school, work, community service, and other limited purposes.

The defendant was later charged with violating the terms of his release by leaving the residence without an approved reason and failing to submit to electronic monitoring. Following a hearing, he was sentenced to three years in state prison. The judge said the defendant posed a threat to the community, based partly on some of the original allegations against the defendant in the robbery and theft case. He appealed the decision, arguing that the judge should not have taken into account any allegations related to the charges that were dropped. The Fifth District agreed in part.

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One of the principles underlying criminal prosecution is that the defendant must be mentally competent to stand trial. Therefore, the determination of competency can be a threshold issue before proceeding with a criminal prosecution. A Florida appeals court, in a recent decision, further clarified that mental competency is a due process right, ruling that once the issue of competency is raised, the defendant must undergo an exam or evaluation before the right can be waived.

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In Sheheane v. State, the State brought the defendant before a court in connection with three alleged Florida probation violations. During the proceedings, the defendant’s counsel raised the issue of the defendant’s mental competency. The trial court ruled that there were reasonable grounds to believe that the defendant might be incompetent to proceed. The court set a date for a competency hearing, but it never occurred. The defendant later, at an unrelated hearing, entered a plea for the probation violations. The defendant waived his right to competency evaluations, and the written plea indicated that the defendant believed that he was competent. As a result of the plea, the defendant was sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment for the probation violations.

Under Florida law, mental competency evaluations arise out of due process rights. This procedural due process right is aimed at protecting the accused from standing trial if they are incompetent. Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.210(b) provides, in part, that if any party to the proceeding has reasonable grounds to believe that the accused is not mentally competent to proceed, the court is required to promptly hold a mental competency hearing, and it may order the defendant to be examined by up to three experts before the date of such a hearing.