Under Florida law, the courts have discretion with regard to sentencing people convicted of crimes. Their discretion is not boundless, however, as in some cases, they are bound by statutory limitations. If a court issues a sentence that fails to abide by a directive in a sentencing statute, the sentence may be deemed illegal, as demonstrated in a recent Florida case in which the defendant appealed the penalties imposed on him following a DUI conviction. If you are charged with a DUI crime, it would benefit you to meet with a St. Petersburg DUI defense attorney to assess what measures you can take to protect your rights.
Procedural Background of the Case
It is reported that the State charged the defendant with a DUI offense. He subsequently agreed to plead nolo contendere to reckless driving as part of a plea deal. The trial court subsequently placed him on probation for twelve months. The defendant appealed, arguing that his sentence was illegal.
Sentencing for Misdemeanor Crimes
On appeal, the court agreed with the defendant’s argument that his sentence was illegal. In doing so, it explained that a first-time reckless driving offense is a misdemeanor, as it is punishable by a maximum term of imprisonment of ninety days. Further, the Florida Statutes state that a defendant placed on probation following a misdemeanor conviction should be supervised for a maximum of six months. As such, the trial court’s order of one year of probation was illegal.
The court noted that although the trial court found that alcohol contributed to the defendant’s reckless driving, and therefore required the defendant to complete a DUI program, it did not address probation in relation to reckless driving. Additionally, the court noted that Florida case law expressly stated that the maximum probationary term for first-time reckless driving is six months.
The court also clarified that even if a plea agreement is involved, a court cannot impose probation beyond the maximum authorized by statute. It noted, though, that it did not mean that a one year probationary period is never appropriate in a reckless driving case. Instead, to impose such a probation period in the subject case, the trial court needed to find or accept a stipulation that alcohol was a significant factor in the offense, but it neglected to do so. As a result, the trial court’s order for one-year probation was improper.
Confer with a Skilled Florida Criminal Defense Attorney
A conviction for a DUI offense can result in a significant penalty, but the courts cannot go beyond the confines of the law when issuing sentences. If you are charged with a DUI offense in Florida, it is important to speak to an attorney about what defenses you may be able to set forth as soon as possible. The skilled St. Petersburg criminal defense lawyers of Hanlon Law are proficient at defending people charged with DUI offenses, and if we represent you, we will work tirelessly to help you seek favorable results. You can contact us to set up a conference by calling us at 727-897-5413 or using our online form.