Court Discusses Florida’s Sentencing Rules for Molestation Crimes

It is not uncommon for people to be charged with multiple criminal counts or offenses at one time. While they may be sentenced for each conviction, the courts must comply with sentencing statutes, and if a court orders a sentence that falls outside of the parameters established by law, it may be illegal. This was shown in a recent Florida ruling in which the court reversed the defendant’s sentences for molestation offenses on the grounds they were unlawful. If you are accused of a sex crime, it is smart to meet with a seasoned Tampa criminal defense lawyer to discuss your rights.

The Defendant’s Charges and Sentencing

It is reported that the defendant was charged with two counts of attempted sexual battery and three counts of lewd and lascivious molestation of a victim under the age of twelve. He entered a no-contest plea to each charge, and the court accepted his plea. During the sentencing phase, he requested that the court impose the statutory minimum sentence for the molestation counts, which was twenty-five years in prison followed by lifelong probation. The State requested life imprisonment.

Allegedly, the defendant was adjudicated guilty and sentenced to life in prison with a twenty-five-year mandatory minimum on each molestation count and thirty years in prison on each attempted sexual battery count. The defendant appealed, arguing in part that his sentences for the molestation counts were not authorized under the relevant statute.

Florida’s Sentencing Rules

In Florida, a court will review a motion to correct a sentence or a claim that a sentence is illegal under a de novo standard. Here, the court noted that the defendant’s assertion that while the molestation counts were life felonies, they were subject to a specific sentencing statute, was accurate. The law in question provided that for a molestation crime committed after September 1, 2005, the court could impose either a term of life imprisonment or a split sentence that is a term of at least twenty-five years imprisonment.

In other words, the defendant argued that the sentencing court could impose one sentence or the other but not both. The appellate court agreed with the defendant, stating that the statute did not allow for the imposition of both penalties. The defendant also alleged that the remedy for such an illegal sentence was a de novo sentencing hearing. The court disagreed, stating that it was clear that the sentencing court intended to impose life sentences for each molestation offense but erroneously imposed a mandatory minimum for each sentence as well. Thus, the court corrected the sentences.

Consult with an Experienced Tampa Criminal Defense Attorney

Criminal defendants have rights that continue even if they are found guilty of committing offenses. If you are charged with a sex crime, it is smart to consult an attorney to determine your options. William Hanlon of Hanlon Law is an experienced Tampa criminal defense attorney with ample experience helping people fight to protect their rights, and if you engage his services, he will work diligently on your behalf. You can reach Mr. Hanlon through the form online or at 813-228-7095 to set up a meeting.