Court Discusses Contesting Prior Convictions in Florida Criminal Matters

Prior convictions can have a detrimental impact on a defendant’s punishment scoresheet. As such, if there are grounds for calling a prior conviction into question, they should be asserted, as it could ultimately result in a reduced sentence. In a recent opinion delivered in a sex crime case, a Florida court discussed the procedure for evaluating whether a prior conviction should be considered valid for the purposes of sentencing. If you are charged with a sex offense, it is smart to speak to a St. Petersburg sex crime defense attorney to assess what defenses you may be able to assert.

The Case Background

It is alleged that the defendant was charged with two counts of sexual battery on a mentally defective victim, one count of lewd and lascivious behavior, and one count of unlawful sexual activity with a minor. He was convicted and sentenced.  Following his sentencing, he filed a motion to correct a sentencing error in which he contested three prior convictions that contributed to his scoresheet. Among these convictions were two counts of burglary of an unoccupied conveyance, a conviction for lewd or lascivious molestation on a person under 12 years of age, and a grand theft auto conviction. The trial court failed to issue a ruling on the motion within the mandated 60-day period, though, and it was deemed denied pursuant to Florida law. The defendant appealed.

Contesting Prior Convictions in Florida Criminal Matters

On appeal, the court explained that in cases where a defendant contests the veracity of their prior convictions, the State is required to provide competent evidence corroborating these convictions. Unfortunately, in this instance, the trial court did not demand such evidence despite the defendant’s assertions that his prior convictions were improper. As such, the court determined that an evidentiary hearing was warranted to assess the contested prior convictions. The goal of the hearing is to ascertain whether the appellant’s scoresheet requires correction based on the accuracy of the prior convictions.

The court went on to note that should the evidentiary hearing confirm an error in the scoresheet, the sentencing court must then consider whether to issue a new sentence, employing the “would-have-been-imposed.” Thus, the trial court’s responsibility extends beyond the initial assessment of the contested convictions; it encompasses the potential need for resentencing with the revised scoresheet. Based on the foregoing, the court reversed the trial court ruling and remanded for further proceedings. The remaining issues raised on appeal were affirmed without comment.

Meet with a Seasoned Florida Criminal Defense Attorney

People charged with sex crimes can face significant penalties if they are found guilty, especially if they have prior convictions. If you are accused of committing a sex offense, it is essential to meet with an attorney to determine what steps you can take to protect your interests. The seasoned

St. Petersburg sex crime defense lawyers of Hanlon Law have ample experience defending people charged with serious crimes in the Florida courts, and if we represent you, we will fight to help you seek a favorable outcome. You can contact us to set up a conference by calling us at 727-897-5413 or using our online form.

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