Probation is an alternative to prison time that in some cases allows a person convicted of a crime to spend less or no time behind bars. In Florida sex crime cases, judges generally have the power to impose various restrictions on people convicted of sex crimes. A recent case out of Florida’s Second District Court of Appeal explains some limits on how those restrictions are imposed.
Defendant entered into a plea agreement after being charged with various sex crimes stemming from undisclosed allegations. He pled guilty to traveling to seduce, solicit or entice a child to commit a sex act and to transmission of material harmful to minors. A judge sentenced Defendant to more than two years in prison. Defendant was also designated as a sex offender, based on the traveling to seduce offense, and got sentenced to an additional six years of probation. As a condition of that probation, he was restricted from having contact with or being in proximity to children.
Defendant appealed the sentence, arguing that he shouldn’t have been given sex offender probation based on the circumstances. He pointed out that the plea agreement made clear that the victim was not a child. While the case was on appeal, the First District Court of Appeal held in a separate decision that a judge must orally pronounce the specific terms and conditions of sex offender probation. Those that the judge doesn’t pronounce are not enforceable, the First District said. But the Fourth District Court of Appeal disagreed with that ruling in a separate case of its own. The appeals court said a judge that orders a person to serve sex offender probation “need not individually specify each item contained within the umbrella of sex offender probation conditions.”
In Defendant’s case, the Second District sided with the Fourth District. The court said Defendant could be presumed to be aware of the conditions and terms of his probation, even if they weren’t pronounced orally. Nevertheless, the court said the trial judge wrongly restricted Defendant from having contact with or being in proximity to children. Those restrictions are required in cases where the victim is under the age of 18. The plea agreement made clear that the victim in Defendant’s case was not under the age 18, and specifically exempted him from those conditions, the court said.
By imposing additional conditions on Defendant, the court said the trial judge violated the rule against double jeopardy. That generally prohibits a court from punishing a person twice for the same crime.
“An enhancement or extension of the conditions of probation after the conclusion of the sentencing hearing generally constitutes a violation of the double jeopardy prohibitions of the United States and Florida constitutions,” the court explained. “Here, the trial court improperly enhanced Jones’s sentence by adding conditions of sex offender probation that are required when the victim was under eighteen.”
If you or a loved one has been charged with a sex crime in the state of Florida, it is essential that you seek the advice and counsel of an experienced lawyer. St. Petersburg sex crime attorney Will Hanlon is a seasoned lawyer who fights aggressively on behalf of clients charged with a wide range of offenses. Call our offices at (727) 897-5413 or contact us online to speak with Mr. Hanlon about your case.
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