Florida Court Reverses Sentence Based on Impermissible Factors

In Florida, felony convictions are reviewed under the state sentencing guidelines. The guidelines were created in an effort to impose fair and uniform sentences for felony crimes and allow the court to consider factors related to the offense to determine an appropriate sentence. When a court imposes a sentence within the statutory range set forth under the guidelines, it generally will not be disturbed.

As noted in a recent Florida appellate court case, however, an exception arises when a court considers impermissible factors during sentencing. If you are a resident of Clearwater and are presently facing criminal charges, it is in your best interest to consult a knowledgeable Clearwater criminal defense attorney to discuss the charges you face.

The Defendant’s Charges and Convictions

It is reported that the defendant shot two victims outside of a bar. He was subsequently charged with first-degree murder with a firearm, attempted first-degree murder with a firearm, and aggravated assault. Following a jury trial, he was convicted of aggravated assault and the lesser included offenses of second-degree murder and attempted manslaughter. He was sentenced to forty years imprisonment for second-degree murder, fifteen for attempted manslaughter and three for aggravated assault. During the sentencing hearing, the trial court stated that the jury found that the defendant reflected on his actions when he committed the crimes and that he spent time thinking about his intended crimes and nonetheless proceeded to commit them. The defendant appealed his sentence on the grounds that the court erred in considering any “reflection” he undertook in committing the crimes since he was not convicted of first-degree murder or attempted first-degree murder.

Sentence Based on Impermissible Factors

On appeal, the court noted that while sentences within the statutory guidelines are typically not subject to review, an exception arises when the court relies on impermissible factors during sentencing, thereby violating a defendant’s right to due process. The court stated that it is a violation of due process for a court to rely on conduct for which the defendant has been acquitted when determining a sentence. Further, the court explained, when the judge that sentences a defendant makes comments that indicate the sentence was based in part on factors the court was not permitted to consider, the sentence must be reversed.

In the subject case, the court found that a review of the trial court’s remarks during the sentencing hearing in light of the jury instructions showed that the trial court relied on conduct for which the defendant had been acquitted in determining his sentence. Specifically, the jury instruction for first-degree murder stated that the defendant must have an intent to kill and enough time for reflection before acting on the intent. As the jury did not convict the defendant of first-degree murder or attempted first-degree murder, he was acquitted of the element of premeditated conduct or reflection. Thus, the court reversed the sentence and remanded for resentencing.

Confer with a Skilled Clearwater Criminal Defense Attorney

The State has a duty to adhere to the sentencing guidelines, and a deviation from the guidelines may be grounds for the reversal of a sentence. If you are a resident of Clearwater and are charged with a criminal offense, you should consult a proficient Clearwater criminal defense attorney to discuss your case and the possible sentences for the crimes you are charged with committing. William Hanlon of Hanlon Law is a proficient Clearwater criminal defense attorney who will provide a vigorous defense to the charges you face. Mr. Hanlon can be contacted at 727-897-5413 or through the online form to set up a conference.

More Blog Posts:

Court Rules a Judge can Consider an Arrest Without a Conviction During a Florida Community Control Revocation Hearing, February 4, 2019, Clearwater and St. Petersburg Criminal Lawyer Blog

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