Florida Court Explains Impermissible Sentencing Factors

When a criminal defendant is convicted of a sex crime, the court is allowed to consider certain mitigating or aggravating factors, such as prior convictions or the lack thereof, in determining an appropriate sentence. When a court considers an impermissible factor in sentencing a defendant, however, it can be grounds to vacate the sentence, as demonstrated in a recent Florida appellate case. If you are faced with charges that you committed a sex crime, it is in your best interest to confer with a dedicated Clearwater sex crime attorney regarding your options for protecting your rights.

Facts Regarding the Alleged Offenses and Trial

It is reported that the defendant, who was 40 years old, picked up the victim, who was 16 years old while she was walking on the side of the road, and took her to his residence. The defendant then offered the victim Dilaudid, which they both injected, after which they had intercourse. The victim died later that evening from an accidental overdose. An autopsy revealed she had numerous drugs in her system, including a small amount of Dilaudid. It was not clear whether the Dilaudid contributed to her death. The defendant was charged with unlawful sexual acts with a person 16 or 17 years old and delivering controlled substances to a person under 18. He was convicted on both counts.

It is alleged that during the sentencing hearing, the judge stated that he was sure the State would have charged the defendant with homicide if the State had sufficient facts to do so. He also stated that the defendant was the main cause of the victim’s death. The defendant was subsequently sentenced to 13-year sentences, to be served consecutively, for each offense. The defendant appealed, arguing the trial court considered impermissible factors in issuing a sentence.

Impermissible Sentencing Factors

Under Florida law, if the court considers impermissible factors in sentencing a defendant, it violates the defendant’s constitutional rights and requires the sentence to be reversed and the case to be remanded for resentencing. The State bears the burden of proving from the evidence of record that the trial court did not evaluate impermissible factors in issuing a sentence. Further, the appellate court assessing the matter must analyze the record to evaluate whether a sentence was at least partially the result of impermissible factors.

While a trial court can consider a defendant’s prior record and the facts surrounding the current charge, it cannot consider charges that were dismissed or pending, or subsequent misconduct, in sentencing a defendant. In the subject case, the appellate court found that upon a review of the record, it could not conclude that the trial court did not consider an uncharged homicide offense to some extent when it sentenced the defendant. Thus, the court reversed the sentence.

Meet with a Trusted Criminal Defense Attorney

Criminal defendants have rights during all stages of proceedings, including the right to a fair sentence. If you are charged with a sex offense, it is prudent to meet with a trusted Clearwater sex crime attorney to assess your rights and available defenses.  Attorney William Hanlon of Hanlon Law is a zealous criminal defense attorney who will work diligently to help you seek the best outcome available under the facts of your case. You can contact Mr. Hanlon through the form online or at 727-897-5413 to schedule a confidential and free conference regarding your charges.

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