Florida Court Discusses Determining the Reasonableness of a Sentence

Although there are sentencing guidelines for violations of both state and federal law, the courts have significant leeway when determining what constitutes an appropriate sentence. The penalties they deliver must be reasonable, however, and if they are not, they may be overturned. In a recent Florida opinion issued in an identity theft case, the court discussed factors weighed in determining the reasonableness of a sentence. If you are accused of a theft offense, it is important to understand the penalties you may face if you are convicted, and you should speak to a St. Petersburg theft crime defense attorney as soon as possible.

Procedural History of the Case

It is alleged that the defendant was charged with multiple counts of aggravated identity theft and having fifteen or more unauthorized access devices in violation of federal law. He agreed to plead guilty to one count of aggravated identity theft and one count of possessing unauthorized access devices under a plea agreement.

It is reported that the presentence report stated that during his arrest, the defendant destroyed multiple devices that contained evidence of his theft and that the funds he diverted included COVID unemployment benefits. The Government sought a sentence of 51 months due to the egregiousness of the defendant’s crimes, his destruction of evidence, and his prior criminal history, while the defendant argued that the court should impose a 45-month sentence. The court agreed with the Government and sentenced the defendant to 51 months in prison, after which he appealed, arguing that the sentence was unreasonable.

Determining the Reasonableness of a Sentence

The federal courts employ a two-step process to determine if a sentence is unreasonable. The first step is to evaluate whether the sentence is sound procedurally. If it is, the court will then assess whether the sentence is substantively reasonable in consideration of the sentencing factors set forth under federal law and the totality of the circumstances. Throughout the process, the party objecting to the sentence bears the burden of proving it is unreasonable.

In the subject case, the court found that the sentence was procedurally proper in that there was no evidence that the court made a significant procedural error. On the contrary, the court considered the relevant factors and the sentencing range and issued a sentence based on the facts agreed on by the parties. Further, the court found that the sentence was substantively reasonable, as it did not lie beyond the range of what is deemed a reasonable sentence when considering the relevant facts and circumstances. Thus, the court affirmed the defendant’s sentence.

Confer with an Experienced Florida Criminal Defense Attorney

People found guilty of committing identity theft may be sentenced to years in prison, but merely because a person is charged with a crime does not mean a conviction is inevitable. If you are accused of a theft offense, it is in your best interest to confer with an attorney about your potential defenses. The experienced St. Petersburg criminal defense lawyers of Hanlon Law understand what it takes to obtain favorable verdicts in theft crime cases, and if you engage our services, we will advocate zealously on your behalf. You can contact us at 727-897-5413 or through the form online to set up a meeting.

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