Articles Posted in Youthful Offender

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.

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Under Florida law, juvenile defendants are subject to a different set of rules and standards than adult defendants in the criminal court system. For example, if a juvenile defendant is found to be in violation of a court order, the law allows the defendant to be sentenced to detainment in a secure facility.

A Florida appellate court recently analyzed whether a juvenile’s sentence of 100 days of detainment following violations of a probation order was unlawful. If you are a juvenile resident of Clearwater and are charged with a criminal offense or probation violation, it is in your best interest to meet with a skilled Clearwater criminal defense attorney to discuss your rights under the law.

Terms of the Defendant’s Probation

Reportedly, the defendant was placed on probation for petit theft and possession of cannabis. The terms of the defendant’s probation required her to live at her mother’s home. While she was on probation, the defendant was charged with possession of a controlled substance. During a conference regarding her probation violation, the court issued a “Do Not Run Order.” The order required the defendant to live at her mother’s home and put the defendant on notice that if a rule to show cause was issued a hearing could be held on whether she was guilty of contempt. Further, the order stated that the defendant was on notice that she faced five days for the first day she was on the run, but no more than fifteen days for each subsequent day. Each day on the run was considered a separate contempt offense.

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Florida, like most states, treats minors charged with crimes differently than adults. The Florida Rules of Juvenile Proceeding provide more safeguards for protecting the rights of juveniles charged with crimes, and the failure to comply with the rules can result in the reversal of a conviction. This was illustrated in a recent case out of the Florida appellate courts, where the court reversed a juvenile conviction on the grounds that the trial court had not properly established the juvenile defendant’s right to counsel. If you are a juvenile resident of Clearwater facing criminal charges it is in your best interest to consult a knowledgeable Clearwater criminal defense attorney to help protect your rights.

Trial Court Proceedings

Allegedly, the defendant, who was a minor, was on probation for various charges. The state filed affidavits alleging the defendant was in violation of his probation. The case proceeded to a plea hearing, which the defendant attended alone without the presence of a parent, guardian, or adult relative. He advised the court that he wished to waive his right to an attorney and admit to violating the terms of his probation. The court subsequently found the defendant waived his right to counsel freely and voluntarily and scheduled a date for the disposition of defendant’s charges. The defendant was not represented by counsel at the disposition hearing. He was adjudicated delinquent and committed to the Department of Juvenile Justice to be placed in a residential program. The defendant subsequently appealed, arguing that the trial court erred as a matter of law by failing to properly investigate his waiver of the right to counsel.

Florida law allows a person who is under the age of 21 and commits certain crimes to be sentenced as a “youthful offender,” eligible for a reduced prison sentence and/or supervised release. To be eligible for youthful offender status, you must be convicted of a noncapital crime that doesn’t carry the possibility of a life sentence. If you are treated as a youthful offender, the maximum sentence that you can serve is six years in prison. Still, as a recent case out of the Fourth District Court of Appeal shows, a youthful offender who is given the opportunity to complete probation instead of prison time can still be thrown behind bars following a Florida burglary offense or another serious crime if he or she doesn’t live up to his or her end of the deal.The defendant was under 21 when he was arrested, charged, and later convicted of burglary of a dwelling. He was sentenced as a youthful offender and originally ordered to serve probation. The defendant violated the terms of that probation multiple times, however, including by being caught using drugs. In a hearing in which a judge considered revoking his probation, he allegedly told the judge that he had previously perjured himself on instruction from an attorney in order to get a better sentence.

The judge eventually sentenced the defendant to 15 years in prison, the maximum sentence for the crime. He said that the defendant “showed a flagrant disregard for the law” by violating the terms of probation and lying in court. “All I see is an individual who is willing to say and do and manipulate anything in order to get his own way,” the judge said. “And that once he does get his own way, he doesn’t follow through on his commitments.” As a result, the judge found that the defendant was a “violent felony offender of special concern posing a danger to the community.”

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