Court Examines Florida’s DUI Sentencing Laws

DUI offenses are not merely traffic violations; instead, they are crimes that can carry significant penalties. There are limitations to the penalties a court can impose for a DUI offense, though, and if a court imposes a sentence over the maximum permitted, it may be unlawful. This was demonstrated recently when a Florida court vacated a sentence for DUI manslaughter on the grounds that it did not include a mandatory probationary component. If you are charged with a DUI offense, it is important to retain a St. Petersburg DUI defense lawyer who can assist you in fighting to protect your rights.

The Procedural History of the Case

It is alleged that the defendant was charged with and convicted of DUI manslaughter. The trial court sentenced him to fifteen years in prison, with a four-year mandatory term. The defendant appealed, but his conviction and sentence were confirmed without an opinion. He then filed a petition, alleging his appellate counsel was ineffective in that he failed to argue that the defendant’s fifteen-year sentence for DUI manslaughter lacked the probationary component required under Florida law. In support of his argument, he referred to a recent Florida decision that held that when a defendant is convicted of a DUI offense, the total sentence cannot exceed fifteen years, which includes the appropriate probationary period. The court agreed with the defendant’s assertions and, therefore, reversed his conviction.

Florida’s DUI Sentencing Laws

To prove a claim of ineffective assistance of appellate counsel, a defendant must show that the appellate attorney’s performance was deficient and that the deficiency of that performance compromised the appellate process to such a degree as to undermine confidence in the fairness and correctness of the appellate result. Appellate counsel can be ineffective for failing to raise issues of merit based on law decided during the pendency of a direct appeal.

In the recent Florida ruling the defendant referred to, the court held that the probationary component in the Florida DUI statute is mandatory, and therefore, when a defendant is sentenced to a term in prison followed by probation, the combined times must not exceed the statutory maximum. The defendant’s appellate counsel failed to argue that his sentence lacked the probationary component required by the Florida DUI statute, which was a meritorious issue established in the law during the pendency of his direct appeal.

The court, therefore, concluded that the defendant’s appellate counsel was ineffective for failing to argue that his sentence lacked the probationary component required by the Florida DUI statute. The sentence was reversed, and the case was remanded for resentencing within the statutory maximum of fifteen years, including the term of probation required by Florida law.

Talk to a Trusted Florida Criminal Defense Attorney

People charged with DUI offenses have rights, not only during the course of their criminal investigation and trial but, if they are convicted, during sentencing as well. If you are accused of a DUI offense, it is critical to speak to an attorney as soon as possible. The trusted St. Petersburg criminal defense lawyers of Hanlon Law take pride in helping people fight to protect their future, and if you hire us, we will zealously advocate on your behalf. You can reach us at 727-897-5413 or through the form online to set up a conference.

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