There are many different ways to pursue justice if you’re a criminal defendant. Sometimes, the best way is to plead not guilty and to contest your case all the way through trial and any necessary appeals. Others times, however, the best path forward may be a plea agreement. Even if a “not guilty” verdict is not a viable option in your situation, there are still variables in play that can increase or decrease the severity of your criminal penalty. Getting justice can mean ensuring that you do not receive an unjust sentence based upon a bad application of the facts or the law. To get the help you need in securing the justice you deserve, be sure to retain the services of a skilled Tampa Bay criminal defense attorney.
Here’s an example involving one man who pled guilty. J.P. was facing two charges in a DUI-related matter. Both charges related to one fatal crash that took place in Broward County in June 2011, where a motorcyclist died after skidding into J.P.’s SUV. The accused man entered a guilty plea and, as part of the agreement, the state dropped count one.
That left the court to sentence J.P. on count two, which was a felony. Florida splits felony crimes into 10 categories of severity. 10 is the most severe and 1 is the least severe. There are several factors that can cause the “score” you are assessed on your scoresheet to go up. Some include if you have prior criminal convictions, if your crime injured multiple victims, if your crime resulted in a victim’s (or victims’) death or if you were on probation when you re-offended. Your score may go up in instances such as those.
One of the keys to being sure that the sentence you receive in connection with your plea deal is a fair one involves making sure that your scoresheet is scored accurately. J.P. received a sentence of 132 months in prison, two years of community control and two years of probation. J.P. was able to appeal and get his sentence reversed precisely because the scoresheet used in determining his sentence was not calculated correctly.
As noted above, a prior criminal history can hurt your score. However, not all previous convictions count against you. Anything that resulted in a conviction more than 10 years before you committed the current crime “must not be scored… if the offender has not been convicted of any other crime for a period of 10 consecutive years from the most recent date of release from confinement, supervision, or other sanction, whichever is later, to the date of the commission of the primary offense.”
That means that the court must look at your last release from, not only incarceration, but also probation. For example, in J.P.’s case, the court had counted 11 previous convictions against him, but all 11 of those took place in 1999 or earlier. One of those 11, however, was a grand theft conviction for which J.P. was placed on two years probation. The evidence indicated that J.P. was released from probation in March 2011, which was three months before the 2011 DUI crash. Had the probation extended past June 2001, the old convictions could have counted. As it was, the scoresheet should not have looked at the old convictions. Because it did, J.P. was entitled to have his case sent back for re-sentencing.
Whether you need to seek an acquittal for the charges you’re facing or you need to work out a plea deal and secure a fair sentence, it is crucial to retain experienced counsel. The Saint Petersburg criminal defense attorneys at Blake & Dorsten, P.A. have been helping the accused and their families for many years seek justice. Call us today at (727) 286-6141 to schedule your FREE initial consultation and get the information you need.
More blog posts:
When the State Can (and Cannot) Use ‘Inevitable Discovery’ to Get Evidence from a Warrantless Search Admitted in Your Florida Trial, Tampa Bay Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog, Nov. 15, 2018
Drinking and driving in Saint Petersburg to get even more costly, Tampa Bay Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog, Oct. 16, 2017