Federal Court Clarifies What Prior Convictions Count Toward Career Offender Status Under Florida Law

In the Florida criminal court system, a career offender designation can result in increased jail time. There are specific criteria that must be met before a defendant can be designated a career offender, and an improper designation can result in unjust penalties.

Recently, a federal court issued an opinion clarifying what convictions count toward a defendant’s career offender status under the Florida sentencing guidelines. If you are a resident of Clearwater with a prior criminal history and are currently charged with a crime, you should meet with a seasoned Clearwater criminal defense attorney to develop a plan that will provide you with a strong chance of a good outcome under the circumstances surrounding your charges. 

Defendant’s Prior Convictions

The defendant had previously been convicted of two counts of possession of marijuana with intent to distribute and one count of robbery. He was subsequently convicted of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, possession of controlled substances with intent to distribute, and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime. The court designated the defendant as a career offender under Florida’s sentencing guidelines and sentenced him to 120 months in prison. The defendant then appealed his sentence, arguing that he was improperly designated a career offender. On appeal, the court affirmed his sentence.

Career Offender Designation

The court clarified that a defendant will be designated as a career offender if at the time of sentencing he or she is at least 18 years old, the subject crime is a violent crime or a controlled substance crime, and he or she has two or more prior convictions of violent crimes or controlled substance crimes. Here, the defendant argued that his prior convictions should not count toward his career offender status on the grounds that marijuana is not a controlled substance and robbery is not a violent crime, because it does not require physical force.

The court rejected the defendant’s position that because Florida’s definition of marijuana differed from the definition under the Federal Controlled Substances Act, a conviction for possession of marijuana could not be considered a conviction of a controlled substance. Rather, the court held that Florida law clearly states that convictions for possession of marijuana with the intent to distribute are controlled substance offenses for purposes of sentencing. Additionally, the court rejected the defendant’s argument that robbery was not a violent crime, noting that robbery requires the use of force or violence. Thus, the court affirmed the defendant’s sentence.

Consult a Seasoned Criminal Defense Attorney in Clearwater

If you live in Clearwater and are facing criminal charges, it is in your best interest to consult a skilled criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to help you formulate a defense. William Hanlon of Hanlon Law is an experienced Clearwater criminal defense attorney who will thoroughly advise you of your options and help you decide the best course of action based upon the facts surrounding your charges. We can be contacted at 727-897-5413 or via our online form to set up a meeting.

More Blog Posts:

Florida Court Holds a Defendant Convicted of Crime of Violence May be Entitled to Have His Sentence Re-Evaluated Due to Recent Case Rulings December 3, 2018, Clearwater and St. Petersburg Criminal Lawyer Blog

Florida Prosecutors Can’t Retry Botched Drug Deal Case July 30, 2018, Clearwater and St. Petersburg Criminal Lawyer Blog

Post-Fight Evidence Gets Green Light in Florida Battery Case February 2, 2018, Clearwater and St. Petersburg Criminal Lawyer Blog

Contact Information