Florida Man’s Sentence Reversed After Hillsborough County Trial Court Interrupts His Statements at the Sentencing Hearing

ConstitutionThe Florida District Court of Appeal, Second District released an opinion on November 8, 2017, that addressed the due process rights available to a criminal defendant at a sentencing hearing. In the case, the defendant appealed the trial court’s decision to revoke his probation and impose a 40-month sentence. The Florida court of appeals applied earlier precedent from Florida criminal decisions to determine whether the State committed a reversible error when the defendant was interrupted during his sentencing hearing.

Due process rights require courts to render judgment only after they have properly considered the issues advanced by the parties. In the context of a probation violation hearing, the court must make separate determinations on whether to revoke probation and also whether the violation justifies the revocation of probation. The due process standard, according to the United States Supreme Court, gives a probationer the opportunity to present mitigating evidence and argue for sentencing alternatives when the trial court has sentencing discretion.

The primary Florida case cited was Amason v. State, 76 So. 3d 374 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 2011). In Amason, the defendant pled guilty to violating her probation. The charge included four alleged violations of probation, including a violation of condition 9 for a failure to make restitution payments and a violation of condition 3 for changing her residence without the approval of her probation officer. The trial court questioned the defendant, but the trial court interrupted her three times. The defendant’s counsel was unable to cross-examine the witnesses at the hearing. Moreover, the defendant was not able to respond to the allegation that she had committed fraud and that the maximum sentence should be imposed. The appeals court found that the court violated her due process rights. The appeals court reversed the trial court’s decision and remanded for a revocation hearing before a different trial judge so that the defendant could present mitigating evidence.

Similarly, in this case, the defendant presented evidence that the trial judge interrupted him during the probation revocation sentencing hearing, and the court did not listen to his mitigating statement before sentencing him. The  court relied on the precedent from Amason in their decision to reverse the defendant’s sentence and remand to the trial court for a sentencing hearing.

Probation revocation hearings can have life-changing consequences for the accused. If you or a loved one is arrested and is informed of a revocation hearing, you need to discuss your case with an attorney as soon as possible. Attorney Will Hanlon is a St. Petersburg probation violation attorney, and he will be happy to discuss your situation with you. Contact us online by using our online form or reach us by phone at 727-897-5413 to schedule an appointment.

More Blog Posts:

Grand Theft Auto Conviction Overturned for Florida Bail Bondsman, Clearwater & St. Petersburg Criminal Lawyer Blog, 

Identification of Typo Changes Crime Classification in Florida Defendant’s Conviction, Clearwater & St. Petersburg Criminal Lawyer Blog, October 18, 2017

Competency Evaluation is a Due Process Right and Cannot be Waived Once Raised by Court, Rules Florida Appeals Court, Clearwater & St. Petersburg Criminal Lawyer Blog, October 27, 2017

Photo Credit: wynpnt, [Creative Common 0.0], via Pixabay