Florida Court Hears Habitual Felony Offender Case

In Florida there is a classification called “habitual felony offender,” or “HFO.” Florida law specifically defines who can be sentenced as an HFO. In this case the defendant was sentenced as an HFO but he argues that he should not have been classified as an HFO, because according to him the court lacked neutrality since they were looking for the alleged victim to appear and testify. In order to be classified as an HFO, defendants must meet certain requirements.

HFO Statute

Florida law requires that the court find three things in order for a defendant to be classified as an HFO. First, the state needs to prove that the defendant has previous separate felony convictions. These convictions cannot have been set aside or pardoned. The defendant must have two or more felony convictions in Florida or convictions for other qualified offenses.

The second prong of the test to determine who qualifies as an HFO requires that the defendant have committed the most recent felony while incarcerated or under supervision for a prior felony. Alternatively, the defendant can be considered an HFO if it has been five years or less since their last felony conviction or five years since they were released from prison or other confinement or monitoring. Finally, the statute makes clear that the felonies cannot be for purchase or possession of a controlled substance.

The Defendant’s Argument

Here, the defendant is arguing that the court committed a fundamental error by adjudicating him an HFO. His most recent conviction was for burglary of a dwelling. He was sentenced to a fifteen-year mandatory minimum sentence and 20 years as an HFO. It is the 20 years relating to the HFO that the defendant now contests.

As noted above, the defendant argued that because the court was looking for the victim to give her impact statement that the court cannot be considered neutral. However, the court disagreed with this argument. Specifically, the Florida First District Court of Appeal noted that just because the court acts on its own does not mean that it is not neutral.

The court here also explained that giving the victim a chance to be heard was the right of the victim, especially since she wanted to be present at the initial sentencing hearing but was unavailable. Further, her presence and testimony was not related to the classification of the defendant as an HFO. Instead, the defendant’s eligibility for HFO status was determined at his original sentencing. Therefore, whether the alleged victim testified or not, the outcome would still be the same. Classifications like HFO and others can have a huge impact on your sentence, which is why it is so important to contact a skilled St. Petersburg criminal defense attorney as soon as possible after you or a loved one has been charged with a crime in Florida.

Contact an Experienced St. Petersburg Sex Crimes Defense Attorney Today

With classifications like HFO, even seemingly minor past crimes can add up to make you eligible for increased sentencing. That’s why you need to contact an experienced St. Petersburg sex crimes attorney as soon as possible after an arrest. Call the experienced St. Petersburg sex crime defense attorneys at Hanlon law firm at (727) 897-5413 or reach out to us online using the form on the website.

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