Florida Court Explains How it Determines if a Criminal Sentence if Unreasonable

Florida courts do not regard fraud schemes as victimless crimes; as such, they often deliver lengthy sentences to people found guilty of fraud offenses. Such sentences will typically be upheld unless a defendant can demonstrate that they are either substantively or procedurally unreasonable. In a recent fraud case, a Florida court discussed the considerations weighed in determining if a sentence is unreasonable. If you are accused of committing fraud, it is in your best interest to talk to a St. Petersburg fraud scheme defense attorney to evaluate what course of action you can take to protect your interests.

Factual History and Procedural Setting

It is alleged that in 2019, the defendant was indicted on multiple federal charges related to identity theft and access device fraud. The indictment stemmed from incidents involving fraudulent purchases made at a department store using a stolen credit card. The defendant ultimately pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit access device fraud and aggravated identity theft. The presentence investigation report (PSI) detailed additional instances of criminal conduct, including intercepting packages and engaging in fraudulent financial transactions.

Reportedly, the PSI also outlined the defendant’s prior criminal history, including convictions for similar offenses. At the sentencing hearing, the district court considered the defendant’s age, criminal history, and ongoing fraudulent behavior. Despite the defendant’s motion for a downward variance, the court imposed a total sentence of 30 months imprisonment, consisting of 6 months for conspiracy to commit access device fraud and a consecutive 24 months for aggravated identity theft. The defendant appealed, arguing her sentence was unreasonable.

Determining if a Sentence is Unreasonable

On appeal, the court found no substantive error or abuse of discretion in the court’s sentencing of the defendant. In doing so, the court reviewed the defendant’s challenges to her sentence, focusing on both procedural and substantive reasonableness.

Procedurally, the court examined whether the district court fulfilled its obligation to articulate specific reasons for departing from the advisory guideline range, as required by 18 U.S.C. § 3553(c)(2). The court found that the trial court had provided a detailed explanation for its sentencing decision, considering factors such as the defendant’s age, criminal history, and the nature of the offenses, therefore satisfying the requirements.

Further, the court evaluated whether the trial court adequately weighed the § 3553(a) factors, which include the defendant’s criminal history, the seriousness of the offense, and the need for deterrence. Despite the trial court not explicitly addressing each factor, the court determined that the record demonstrated it considered these factors in crafting the defendant’s sentence. The court emphasized that while explicit discussion of each factor is not required, the trial court must demonstrate an awareness of and thoughtful consideration for them, which the trial court did in this case.

The court then examined whether the defendant’s sentence was reasonable in light of the circumstances. The court reiterated that a sentence within the guideline range is presumed reasonable but noted that departure from the guidelines does not automatically render a sentence unreasonable. In this case, the court found that the defendant’s sentence, consisting of 30 months’ imprisonment, fell within the statutory range for the offenses and was consistent with sentencing guidelines. Therefore, the court affirmed the defendant’s sentences.

Meet with a Seasoned St. Peterburg Criminal Defense Attorney

Fraud crimes carry substantial penalties. As such, if you are charged with a fraud offense, it is important that you meet with an attorney to discuss what defenses you may be able to set forth. The seasoned St. Petersburg fraud defense lawyers of Hanlon Law can assess your case and craft compelling arguments on your behalf. You can use our online form or call us at 727-897-5413 to arrange a consultation.

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