Criminal defendants are granted numerous rights under state and federal law, that aim to protect them from unjust outcomes. Notably, a criminal defendant’s rights are not extinguished if he or she is found guilty of a crime. Rather, criminal defendants are protected from unfair sentences as well. This was demonstrated in a recent Florida appellate court case in which the court vacated the defendant’s fifty-year sentence for sexual battery, finding that it violated the defendant’s Eighth Amendment rights. If you are accused of committing sexual battery, it is in your best interest to meet with a skillful Clearwater sex crime attorney to discuss your rights and potential defenses.
Factual and Procedural Background
It is reported that the defendant was charged with and convicted of armed sexual battery in 2016, for offenses he committed when he was fifteen years old. He was subsequently sentenced to fifty years imprisonment. The defendant then filed a motion for post-conviction relief, arguing that the sentence violated his Eighth Amendment rights. The district court denied the motion, after which the defendant appealed.
Evaluating Whether a Sentence is Unjust
On appeal, the defendant argued that because he was a nonhomicide juvenile offender, his sentence violated Florida law, and he was entitled to relief. Upon review, the court noted that under Florida law, the constitutional prohibition against unusual and cruel punishment comes into play when a nonhomicide juvenile offender’s sentence does not afford him or her any meaningful chance for release based on demonstrated rehabilitation and maturity. The law is based on the position that imprisonment for a juvenile is qualitatively different than a comparable term for any adult. In further defining juvenile offenders’ rights with regards to sentencing, the Florida courts ruled that any lengthy term of years sentence imposed on a juvenile offender, which means any sentence longer than twenty years, does not provide a true opportunity for early release and may be vacated.