Appeals Court of Florida Finds Trial Court Erred in Requiring a Defendant to Register as a Sex Offender and in its Sentencing

It is important for any defendant who pleads guilty to or is convicted of a crime to understand how previous convictions for sex crimes may be weighed against him or her. In the Florida courts, prior to sentencing, a Presentence Investigation Report (PSI) is issued, setting forth a defendant’s criminal and personal history. The PSI aides judges in determining an appropriate sentence. It is essential that the court accurately understand information in a PSI, as an incorrect assessment of prior convictions can result in an inappropriate sentence.

This was illustrated in a recent Florida appellate court case, where the court found that the trial court committed an error of law in requiring a defendant to register as a sex offender and imposing a greater than guideline sentence due to a misunderstanding of the information in the PSI and the applicable law. If you were previously convicted of a sex crime and currently face criminal charges in St. Petersburg, it is in your best interest to consult an experienced St. Petersburg sex crimes defense attorney as soon as possible.

Defendant’s Sentencing Hearing

Purportedly, the defendant pled guilty to bank robbery and taking a hostage during a bank robbery. Prior to his sentencing, a PSI was issued that included information regarding the defendant’s prior adjudication as a juvenile for sexual misconduct. The sexual misconduct conviction was based on the defendant allegedly forcing a seven-year-old girl to have oral sex with him when he was thirteen.

The defendant was adjudicated as a delinquent when he was fourteen. The defendant did not object to the PSI and the court adopted the PSI’s findings and guidelines at the sentencing hearing. The court ultimately determined that a sentence greater than indicated by the sentencing guidelines was appropriate, based in part on the defendant’s prior sexual misconduct conviction. The court described the sexual misconduct crime and horrific and cited it as evidence that the defendant callously disregarded other people’s rights. In doing so, the court erroneously stated the defendant was fourteen when he committed the crime.

Reportedly, the defendant was charged with 240 months in prison, followed by five years of supervised release. He was also directed to register as a sex offender following his release from prison. The defendant subsequently appealed his above-guideline sentence. On appeal, the court found the trial court committed a reversible error and remanded the case to the trial court for resentencing.

Sex Offender Registration Requirements

The court noted that although the defendant failed to object to the trial court stating he was fourteen when he committed the crime or the requirement that he register as a sex offender both were obvious errors that compelled consideration. The court then noted that the law requires individuals convicted of sex offenses are required to register as sexual offenders, but only if they were fourteen years or older at the time they committed the crime.

Here, as the defendant was thirteen when he allegedly committed sexual misconduct, the mandatory registration law did not apply to him. Further, the court noted his prior sexual misconduct conviction was a substantial factor in determining that an above sentence guideline was appropriate. The court stated that the for some purposes there is a material difference between committing the crime at thirteen as opposed to fourteen, and therefore, it could not rule out the possibility the trial court’s incorrect determination as to the defendant’s age when he committed the prior crime weighed in favor of an increased sentence. As such, the court reversed the sentence and remanded for resentencing.

Meet with a Skilled St. Petersburg Sex Crime Defense Attorney

If you are charged with a crime in St. Petersburg, you should meet with a skilled sex crimes defense attorney to discuss how previous convictions for sex crimes may be weighed against you. Attorney William Hanlon of Hanlon Law is adept at defending St. Petersburg residents charged with sex crimes and will vigorously defend your rights.  Contact our offices at 727-897-5413 or via the online form to set up a meeting.

More Blog Posts:

Florida Court Clarifies What Constitutes an Overt Act in an Attempted Sex Crime November29, 2018, St. Petersburg Sex Crimes Lawyer Blog

Florida Appeals Court Hears Video Voyeurism Case November 11, 2018, St. Petersburg Sex Crimes Blog

Florida Appeals Court Hears Sixth Amendment Sexual Battery Case October 25, 2018, St. Petersburg Sex Crimes Blog