A Florida Woman’s Success in Obtaining a New Sentencing Hearing Based Upon the Prosecution’s Improper Use of Uncharged Incidents

Sometimes, obtaining a reversal of your conviction may not be feasible. The state may simply have amassed too much evidence against you at trial. Even if you cannot reasonably expect to obtain a reversal of your conviction, that definitely does not mean that you should abandon filing an appeal altogether. Sometimes, pursuing (and succeeding in) an appeal of your sentence can provide you with very significant benefits, including a lot less time behind bars. To make sure that you get a truly fair hearing, whether it is at your trial or at your sentencing hearing, be sure to obtain the services of an experienced Tampa Bay defense attorney to represent you.

An example of a such a case where the defendant received a fair trial but not a fair sentencing hearing took place recently in DeSoto County. K.L. was arrested and charged with selling meth within 1000 feet of a place of worship and possessing drug paraphernalia. The state secured a conviction at trial. At the woman’s sentencing hearing, the prosecution called K.L. a “consistent drug dealer” and stated that multiple police officers could testify that K.L. had a “predisposition for dealing drugs multiple times to multiple people, not just this one drug sale.” The court allowed the state to use this evidence in the sentencing hearing.

The woman appealed her conviction and her sentence. The appeal of the conviction went nowhere, but the appeals court concluded that the woman was correct in her challenge of her sentencing hearing. This meant that K.L. was entitled to have her sentence thrown out and to get a new sentencing hearing before a different judge. The problem with the first sentencing hearing that triggered a reversal and a new hearing was the trial judge’s allowing in impermissible evidence. The state argued during the sentencing hearing that K.L. had a history of engaging many instances of dealing drugs subsequent to the sale upon she was arrested. The state, however, had never charged the woman with any drug-selling crimes other than the one deal that was the subject of this trial. Based on charged offenses, the state had a record of K.L. dealing drugs exactly once.

That kind of evidence – regarding the alleged subsequent drug sales – was not allowed. The appeals court explained that “incidents of misconduct occurring after the charged offense, some of which did not result in charges or arrests,” clearly are not valid considerations in sentencing. Once you have shown that a prosecution argument was improper in your case, then the burden of proof shifts over to the state to show “that the trial court did not consider impermissible factors in rendering its sentence.” In K.L.’s case, the state could not prove that. In fact, the evidence showed that the trial judge almost certainly did consider the impermissible argument. The trial judge announced that she was “taking into account everything” and went to express surprise that K.L. had been busted by the police previously given her long period of time struggling with addiction.

This was enough to trigger a reversal and a new sentencing hearing.

The law gives everyone a right to a fair shake in court, whether you are contesting guilty versus not guilty, or contesting the punishment that the court should hand down. The skilled SDaint Petersburg criminal defense attorneys at Blake & Dorstem P.A. have been providing clients with effective criminal defense representation for many years. Call us today at (727) 286-6141 to schedule your FREE initial consultation and get the information you need.

More blog posts:

Glitter on the Cash and Police Bodycam Footage: All the Proof that Went in Two South Florida Defendants’ Successes in Court, Tampa Bay Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog, July 20, 2018

Million-to-One Shot: Florida Suspect Theorizes that Cocaine ‘Must Have Flown’ Into Her Purse, Tampa Bay Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog, April 19, 2018


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