Defending Minors And Young Adults

Articles Posted in Sentencing

In Florida sex crime cases, the defendant is permitted to enter whatever plea he or she chooses. In some cases, a defendant may choose to plead guilty, in exchange for a reduced sentence or penalty. While a defendant is free to enter any plea he or she chooses at the outset of a sex crime case, changing a plea at later stages of the case can be very difficult.

In a recent Florida appellate case, the court ruled that a defendant who pleaded guilty to sex crimes did not meet the burden of proof required to show he should be permitted to change his plea following sentencing. If you are charged with a sex crime in St. Petersburg, it is in your best interest to meet with a capable St. Petersburg criminal defense attorney to discuss your case and available defenses.

Facts Regarding the Defendant’s Alleged Crime

Reportedly, the defendant engaged in sexual activity with his 13-year-old stepdaughter. He was charged with sexual battery by a person in familial authority and lewd or lascivious molestation. He pleaded guilty to the charges in exchange for concurrent terms of time served to be followed by sex offender probation. Following his sentencing, however, the defendant filed a motion to withdraw his plea, due to the fact that he was not advised that he would be subject to electronic monitoring as part of his probation. The trial court denied his motion, after which the defendant appealed.

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Florida sets forth sentencing guidelines that provide minimum sentences that must be imposed and allows for enhanced sentences if certain elements are met. The State bears the burden of proving that an enhanced sentence is appropriate, and an enhanced sentence imposed without justification may be vacated.

For example, a Florida District Court of Appeal recently vacated a life sentence that was imposed following a conviction for aggravated battery with a firearm, on the grounds that the State failed to provide sufficient evidence that a sentencing enhancement was proper. If you are a St. Petersburg resident and are facing criminal charges, it is in your best interest to speak with an experienced St. Petersburg criminal defense attorney to assist you in fighting to retain your rights.

The Defendant’s Conviction and Sentence  

Reportedly, the defendant was charged with attempted first-degree murder with a firearm and aggravated battery with a firearm. The jury found that the defendant had actual possession of a firearm and discharged the firearm, inflicting great bodily harm on his victims under both counts. The court subsequently sentenced the defendant to two concurrent life sentences under section 775.087(2), often referred to as the 10-20-Life statute, due to the fact that he was a prison releasee reoffender. The defendant filed a motion to correct the life sentence imposed on him as to the battery count, on the grounds that the sentence was illegal. The trial court denied his motion, after which the defendant appealed.

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The criminal legal system treats juvenile defendants differently than adult defendants. Juveniles are generally granted more protection of their rights and are often subject to different sentencing. For example, the United States Supreme Court held in Graham v. Florida that any life sentence imposed on a juvenile offender who was convicted of a non-homicide offense must provide a meaningful chance for the offender to be released before the end of the sentence.

The Supreme Court of Florida recently ruled in Franklin v. State, that the Graham holding did not prohibit a court from imposing a 1,000-year sentence with parole eligibility. If you are a juvenile charged with a crime in St. Petersburg, it is in your best interest to meet with an experienced St. Petersburg criminal defense attorney to assess the potential penalties for the crime you are charged with and help you to formulate a defense.

Alleged Facts Regarding Crimes and Sentencing

Allegedly, the defendant committed several violent crimes when he was seventeen. He was charged with several crimes in three separate cases, including kidnapping, armed robbery, and aggravated assault. During the trial in one of his cases, a physician who treated the victim testified the victim suffered the most severe injuries he had ever witnessed.

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It is important for any defendant who pleads guilty to or is convicted of a crime to understand how previous convictions for sex crimes may be weighed against him or her. In the Florida courts, prior to sentencing, a Presentence Investigation Report (PSI) is issued, setting forth a defendant’s criminal and personal history. The PSI aides judges in determining an appropriate sentence. It is essential that the court accurately understand information in a PSI, as an incorrect assessment of prior convictions can result in an inappropriate sentence.

This was illustrated in a recent Florida appellate court case, where the court found that the trial court committed an error of law in requiring a defendant to register as a sex offender and imposing a greater than guideline sentence due to a misunderstanding of the information in the PSI and the applicable law. If you were previously convicted of a sex crime and currently face criminal charges in St. Petersburg, it is in your best interest to consult an experienced St. Petersburg sex crimes defense attorney as soon as possible.

Defendant’s Sentencing Hearing

Purportedly, the defendant pled guilty to bank robbery and taking a hostage during a bank robbery. Prior to his sentencing, a PSI was issued that included information regarding the defendant’s prior adjudication as a juvenile for sexual misconduct. The sexual misconduct conviction was based on the defendant allegedly forcing a seven-year-old girl to have oral sex with him when he was thirteen.

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Part of why it is so important to have a skilled Florida criminal defense attorney on your side is that they may know about plea options that most people don’t know about. In other words, they may be able to ask the prosecutor for a plea deal that can help a defendant avoid some of the most harmful consequences of a conviction. Asking the judge to withhold adjudication is one of these potential options.

Withholding Adjudication

Florida law has a statute that allows judges to withhold adjudication in some circumstances. When adjudication is withheld, the defendant will usually have some kind of penalty, but since it is not a conviction it will not be on their record. The penalties vary but frequently include some kind of diversion program, counseling, probation, and/or community service hours. Of course the defendant needs to complete all of the requirements imposed by the court or else they will be convicted.

The main benefit of a withholding of adjudication is that the defendant will still have a clean record if this is their first offense. This can be a huge benefit when looking for employment, as many employers will ask applicants whether they have been convicted of a crime. If your adjudication has been withheld, you can honestly answer “no.” However, applicants should read the question closely because sometimes potential employers will ask instead whether applicants have been arrested, which defendant would then have to answer “yes” even if the conviction was withheld.

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The defendant in this case was convicted for the first-degree murder of a correctional officer while he was an inmate in a correctional institution. He was sentenced to the death penalty. This appeal was based on a case that was decided after the defendant was convicted. In a case called Hurst, it was found unconstitutional for defendants to be sentenced to death when the sentence is not reached by a unanimous jury verdict. It also addressed the use of aggravating factors. This case relies on that precedent to argue that the defendant here should also not be sentenced to death.

Aggravating Factors

Florida death penalty laws are somewhat complicated. As part of the decision to penalize someone with death, the jury must consider certain aggravating and mitigating factors. Obviously, aggravating factors weigh toward a sentence of death and mitigating factors do not. Here, the court gave five different aggravating factors great or very great weight. They were: that the defendant was convicted of a felony before, and the felony involved violence, the crime was intended to disrupt a lawful governmental function, it was especially heinous, atrocious, or cruel, and it was cold, calculated, and premeditated. Conversely, the court found no statutory mitigating factors and eight non-statutory mitigating factors that were given little to some weight.

The American criminal justice system understands that due to their age, minors do not have the same decision making skills as adults do. Thus, if a juvenile is accused of a crime, there may be defenses they can use that may not be available for adults. Of course every case is different and the best defense will depend on your circumstances. If you are being investigated or charged with a sex crime you should contact a skilled St. Petersburg sex crimes attorney as soon as possible. They can look at your circumstances and use their extensive knowledge of case law to help make sure that your rights are preserved.

Davis Case

In 2017, the Florida Supreme Court decided the Davis case, which they applied to the instant case to find that the sentence given to the defendant here should be vacated and a new penalty phase hearing should be conducted. In Davis, a man was arrested on two counts of first degree murder. He was found guilty by the jury of these murders. During the penalty phase of the trial, his attorneys presented mitigating evidence, including testimony about his cognitive functioning and mental health issues. There was little evidence proffered that supported aggravating factors for the sentencing. The jury recommended that the defendant be given two death sentences by a vote of nine to three for one of the murders and a vote of ten to two for the other murder.

Criminal cases involving juvenile defendants can raise a number of tricky legal questions. Florida’s Third District Court of Appeal recently took up the case of a man who was sentenced to life in prison when he was a minor. The decision offers some important insight for anyone facing criminal charges as a juvenile, whether it’s for a Florida sex crime or another offense.

Defendant was 17 years old when he was charged with first degree murder in 1973. He eventually pled guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole. Defendant got that parole six years later, when he was let out of prison on supervised release. He was sent back to prison two years later after being convicted of cocaine possession and battery on a law enforcement officer. He was released on parole and sent back to prison two additional times over the next two decades.

In 2017, Defendant filed a motion seeking to correct his original life sentence. He argued that the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Miller v. Alabama and the Florida Supreme Court’s decision in Atwell v. State made it unlawful for a minor to be sentenced to life in prison. In Miller, the U.S. Supreme Court said that a juvenile can be sentenced to life in prison must receive some meaningful opportunity to obtain release based on demonstrated maturity and rehabilitation. In Atwell, the state’s highest court struck down a sentence for a juvenile who would not have had the opportunity for parole for some 140 years.

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A death sentence is the ultimate penalty in Florida criminal cases. A recent ruling out of the Florida Supreme Court limits the circumstances under which a person can be sentenced to die as a result of a conviction. In June, the high court explained what that means for people given a death sentence prior to that ruling. The decision could have major implications for anyone facing sex crime or other charges.Defendant was sentenced to death after being convicted on charges of kidnapping, robbery, and first-degree murder in 2009. He was homeless and had been recently released from prison when he met the victim, according to the court. The victim invited Defendant to stay at his home until Defendant got back on his feet, the court said. Defendant was living at the home when he beat the victim to death, stole the man’s car and used his ATM card to withdraw $900.

Defendant was arrested after an unrelated encounter with a police officer and eventually admitted to beating the man. He had bruised knuckles and abrasions on his body. Defendant told the cops that he had been lying naked in bed with the victim and had given him a massage when the victim attempted to have anal sex with Defendant. When the victim continued those attempts, Defendant responded by beating him. Defendant said he used his fists and a wooden box and acknowledged that he used a telephone cord to tie the man up because he feared the victim would go to the police.

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