Appeals Court Upholds Reduction of Sentence for Florida Defendant

When you work with a skilled Tampa criminal defense attorney there are several ways that they can help you after you have been charged with a crime. They can help defend you against the charges. They can also help you negotiate a plea bargain with the prosecutor. Another thing that they can do is to help with sentence mitigation if the defendant is found guilty. This case involves the latter.

Downward Departure

The defendant in this case is a woman with no prior criminal record before this prosecution. After working for a couple for eight years as the housekeeper and groundskeeper of their house in Florida, she was charged with burglary and trespassing. Her job duties involved taking care of the home while the couple was away, although she was never supposed to spend the night there. After many satisfactory years as an employee she began dating a man who had drug issues and was also a convicted felon. He allegedly pressured her to sleep at the house and stay there while the couple was away. He also allegedly stole property from the couple and the defendant herself, including checks. He testified at trial that the defendant was not involved with the taking of property.

The defendant petitioned the court for a downward departure in her sentence. The court granted this petition and she was sentenced to six months in the county jail, followed by fifteen months of community service and five years of probation. Without the downward departure she would have faced 21 months to 15 years in jail.

Florida law allows downward departures when there are valid reasons. The trial court is responsible for supporting a determination for downward departure with facts that are proven by a preponderance of the evidence. The appeals court here looked at the trial court’s determination using an abuse of discretion standard.

Acting Under the Domination of Another Person

One of the trial court’s main reason for granting the downward departure is because they found that the defendant acted “under the domination of another person.” In other words, they believed that the defendant acted under duress due to the influence of her boyfriend. Acting under the domination of another person is a ground for downward departure. Further, the court noted that the defendant did not have a prior criminal history and had worked for the couple without incident for eight years before her boyfriend entered the picture.

The state appealed this grant of the downward departure. They argued that there was not enough evidence in the record to prove that the defendant was dominated by her boyfriend. The Third District Court of Appeal in Florida heard the appeal. They upheld the downward departure and explained that there was enough evidence that the trial court did not abuse their discretion in finding that the defendant was dominated by her boyfriend in the commission of these crimes. Thus, the lower sentence was allowed to stand.

Contact an Experienced Tampa Criminal Defense Attorney Today!

Defendants charged with crimes need knowledgeable attorneys on their side to help them get their charges dismissed of their sentence reduced. The experienced Tampa criminal defense attorneys at Hanlon Law Firm will defend you zealously against any and all charges. Call our offices at (727) 897-5413 or contact us online to speak with our attorneys about your case.

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