Florida Court Explains State’s Burden of Proof at Probation Revocation Hearings

Criminal defendants who plead guilty or no contest to criminal charges or are convicted of crimes following a trial may be sentenced to a term of probation in lieu of incarceration. Standard terms of probation typically include the requirement that the defendant refrains from violating any laws or committing any new offenses. If the State alleges a defendant on probation committed an offense, it can result in a revocation of the probation and increased penalties.

Recently, a Florida appellate court discussed the State’s burden of proof in revocation hearings, in a case in which the court reversed a trial court’s finding that the defendant had committed a crime. If you reside in Tampa and are facing criminal charges or the potential of revocation of your probation, it is in your best interest to consult a skilled Tampa criminal defense attorney to help you in your efforts to retain your rights and protect your future.

Facts of the Case

Reportedly, the defendant was on probation for various crimes. During his probation, it was alleged that he committed new offenses, thereby violating his probation. Specifically, it was alleged that he used cocaine and committed the offenses of theft, dealt in stolen property, and provided false verification of ownership to a secondhand dealer. A probation revocation hearing was held, after which the court found the defendant violated his probation by committing the alleged offenses and revoked his probation. The defendant appealed, arguing in part, that there was insufficient evidence he provided false verification of ownership to a secondhand dealer.

The State’s Burden of Proof at Revocation Hearings

On review, the court explained that the State must show an alleged violation of the terms of a defendant’s probation by a preponderance of the evidence. If a defendant alleges a trial court erred in finding a violation, the appellate court will assess whether the trial court committed an abuse of discretion in finding a violation. In the subject case, the defendant’s probation was revoked in part due to an alleged violation of section 538.04(4)(a) of the Florida statute, which prohibits a person from knowingly providing false verification of ownership of property to a secondhand dealer of goods. Section 538.04(4)(a) also requires a secondhand dealer to complete a transaction form with information identifying the person providing the property, and a signed verification that the person is the owner of the property and entitled to sell the property.

Here, the defendant allegedly sold property he borrowed from his mother in law to a pawnbroker. The pawnbroker did not testify at trial, and there was no evidence introduced at trial that showed the defendant falsely verified he owned the property and was rightfully entitled to sell the property. The State argued that evidence existed that showed the defendant was not the rightful owner of the property, however, the court held this was insufficient to show he falsely verified his ownership. As such, the court reversed the revocation of the defendant’s probation to the extent it was based on the violation of section 538.04(4)(a) and remanded for re-sentencing.

Schedule a Meeting with a Seasoned Tampa Criminal Defense Attorney

The State must meet certain evidentiary standards to prove a defendant on probation committed an offense and his or her probation should be revoked. If you are a resident of Tampa and are charged with a criminal offense or a probation violation, you should meet with a seasoned Tampa criminal defense attorney to discuss your case.  William Hanlon of Hanlon Law is an experienced Tampa criminal defense attorney who will work diligently to help you seek a favorable outcome under the circumstances. Mr. Hanlon can be reached at 813-228-7095 or through the online form to schedule a meeting.

More Blog Posts:

Florida Court of Appeals Reverses Conviction for Resisting an Officer Without Violence, November 27, 2018, Tampa Criminal Lawyer Blog