Florida Court Discusses Factors a Court May Consider in Issuing Sentences

When a person is convicted of committing a crime, the court will rely on numerous factors in determining an appropriate sentence. While the court is permitted to consider some information outside of the facts relating to the present conviction, if a court considers certain evidence, such as crimes for which the defendant was not convicted, the sentence may be improper. This was demonstrated in a recent Florida case in which the defendant successfully argued that his sentence for two separate sex crimes involving minors should be overturned. If you are accused of committing a sex crime against a child, it is critical to meet with a knowledgeable Clearwater sex crime defense attorney to discuss your rights.

Facts of the Case

It is reported that the defendant was charged with multiple crimes involving sex acts with minors. He was found guilty of two of the charges and subsequently sentenced. The defendant then filed an appeal, arguing in part that the trial court judge improperly relied upon conduct the defendant was found not guilty of committing to determine an appropriate sentence. The appellate court found in favor of the defendant and remanded the case for a new sentence.

Factors Weighed in Determining a Sentence

Under Florida law, a judge may not rely on or consider conduct for which a defendant was acquitted when assessing what sentence to issue. In other words, it is well-established law that when the record demonstrates that the trial court relied upon previous acquittals in determining an appropriate sentence, the State bears the burden of proving that the judge’s consideration of the prior acquittals played no part in the assessment of a sentence.

In the subject case, during the sentencing hearing, the judge made numerous comments regarding the crimes for which the defendant was charged but found not guilty of committing. Specifically, he commented on the crimes of sexual battery and showing obscene materials to minors multiple times. Then, immediately after making the comments, the judge sentenced the defendant to two life sentences that were to run concurrently.

Based on the trial judge’s remarks immediately prior to issuing the sentence, the appellate court found that the record supported the finding that the trial judge improperly considered charges for which the defendant was not convicted in setting forth the sentence. Further, the appellate court noted that the State had not provided any evidence that would persuade the court that the trial judge did not consider the defendant’s acquittals during sentencing. As such, the court vacated the sentence and remanded for resentencing.

Meet with a Trusted Clearwater Attorney

If you live in Clearwater and are accused of engaging in unlawful sex acts, it is critical to retain an attorney who will fight vigorously to protect your rights. Attorney William Hanlon of Hanlon Law is a trusted Clearwater sex crime defense attorney who proudly helps criminal defendants fight for a just outcome, and if you retain his services, he will advocate tirelessly on your behalf. You can reach Mr. Hanlon by calling 727-897-5413 or via the form online to schedule a free and confidential meeting.

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