In some cases, it is prudent for a criminal defendant to plead guilty in exchange for a lesser sentence. A guilty plea does not always guarantee a lesser sentence; however, as the court is free to sentence a defendant to the maximum punishment permitted. The court is not permitted to exceed the maximum sentence, however, or the sentence may be deemed illegal. This was illustrated in a recent case decided by the District Court of Appeal of Florida, Second District, in a case in which the defendant pleaded guilty to sexual battery and received a sentence in excess of the maximum sentence. If you live in Clearwater and are charged with sexual battery or any other sex crime, it is important to meet with a skilled Clearwater sex crime defense attorney to help you protect your rights.
It is alleged that the defendant was charged with and pleaded to guilty three separate charges of sexual battery with a deadly weapon, arising out of separate acts. Prior to pleading guilty, the defendant entered into a plea agreement with the State, in which his collective sentences were not to exceed 100 years. The court disregarded the agreement, however, and sentenced the defendant to three concurrent 90-year sentences. The defendant filed a motion to correct the sentences, arguing that as sexual batteries were life felonies, but the court did not impose life sentences, the maximum term he could be sentenced for each offense was 40 years.
Reportedly, the court subsequently issued an order stating that the defendant withdrew his motion. The defendant filed a second motion, but it was never ruled on. Finally, the defendant filed a third motion to correct his sentence. The court denied the motion stating that the issue had previously been ruled upon, and the defendant appealed.
Maximum Sentence for Life Felonies Under Florida Law
Under Section 794.011(3) of the Florida Statutes, sexual battery with a weapon is a life felony. Further, Section 775.082(3)(a) stipulates that a defendant who is convicted of a life felony may be sentenced to either life imprisonment or a term of imprisonment that does not exceed 40 years. Finally, if a trial court does not impose a life sentence, it may not impose a prison sentence of more than 40 years.
In the subject case, the court noted that numerous Florida courts have held that sentences for more than 40 years for a life felony conviction are illegal, and correctable via a motion. The court found that the defendant’s 90-year sentences exceeded the 40-year maximum, and therefore, were illegal. Thus, the court reversed the sentences and remanded the case to the trial court.
Meet with an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney
Even if a defendant pleads guilty to a crime, he or she is afforded rights under the law, including the right to a fair sentence. If you reside in Clearwater and are faced with sex crime charges, it is crucial to retain an experienced Clearwater sex crime defense attorney who will work diligently to help you seek a fair result. Attorney William Hanlon of Hanlon Law is a seasoned sex crime defense attorney who will set forth a compelling defense on your behalf. You can contact Mr. Hanlon at 727-897-5413 or through the form online to schedule a confidential and free meeting regarding your case.