In a case that recently came out of the First District Court of Appeals in Florida, the appeals court reversed the trial court’s finding of a probation violation. If you are given a suspended sentence or probation, and you believe that you were wrongly accused of violating those conditions, you should contact a skilled Clearwater probation violation attorney as soon as possible.Probation and Suspended Sentences
In some cases, especially for minor and first offenses, instead of incarceration, the judge may order probation or a suspended sentence. A suspended sentence means that the defendant will not have to serve the sentence if they meet certain requirements for a specific period of time. During sentencing, the judge should make clear what the conditions of the suspended sentence are and what the conditions of probation are. Sometimes all that is needed for a suspended sentence is to stay out of trouble. In other cases, the defendant may need to attend rehab or pursue employment.
If the defendant does not follow the conditions that the judge has set for their suspended sentence, the judge can order them to serve the sentence. Similarly, if the defendant violates the terms of their probation, the judge can incarcerate them for violating probation. However, the prosecution must prove that the defendant willfully violated a substantial condition of the probation.
Employment and Probation
Here, the defendant pleaded guilty to a count of selling marijuana. It was his first offense. In exchange for his plea, the judge sentenced him to 21 months of probation and a 90-day jail sentence. However, as part of the suspended sentence, he was supposed to get a job at Home Depot. During the trial, he explained that he had been hired at Home Depot but was just waiting for the disposition of the case so that he could let Home Depot know. However, once they found out he was on probation, Home Depot withdrew their offer. Thus, the defendant ended up not being hired at Home Depot.
Instead, he found two jobs where he was working a total of 60 hours per week. Nonetheless, the trial court held that he violated the terms of his probation, and he should be incarcerated to serve out his original sentence. He appealed to the First District Court of Appeal in Florida. They explained that this was not a willful and substantial violation of probation. While he did not get the Home Depot job, he fulfilled the requirement of getting a full-time job. Therefore, they reversed the trial court’s decision.
In a concurring opinion, one of the justices explained his concerns with the trial court’s holding. He noted that it was unclear whether the requirement to get a job was part of the conditions for the suspended sentence or part of his probation. Aside from that issue, the judge explained that in order for something to be a willful violation of probation, the defendant cannot have made reasonable efforts to comply. He noted that in this situation, the defendant did everything he could to comply with getting a job at Home Depot. He opined that the trial court judge abused his discretion by finding a violation of probation.
Contact An Experienced Clearwater Criminal Defense Attorney
A skilled criminal defense attorney can help defend you or a loved one against criminal charges or alleged probation violations. At Hanlon Law, we fight aggressively on behalf of clients charged with a crime. Call our offices at (727) 897-5413 or contact us online to speak with us about your case.
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Florida Plea Deal and the Pitfalls of Breaking Your Word