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Miami Sentencing Involving the Youthful Offender Act

The Youthful Offender Act was enacted to give lower courts sentencing alternatives for defendants who are under 21-years-old and meet certain eligibility criteria. If you meet these criteria in Miami, it may be possible to ask the court to sentence you as a youthful offender, and these penalties are less harsh than adult sentencing. A skillful Miami criminal defense attorney with knowledge of sentencing alternatives can help you make sense of your options. In a recent Florida case, an appellate court reconsidered an earlier ruling about its sentencing of a defendant previously deemed a youthful offender.

The case arose when a young man was charged with aggravated battery. His sentence was imposed pursuant to the Youthful Offender Act, which permits at most six years of incarceration for those treated as youthful offenders. Accordingly, the defendant’s sentence involved 479 days in prison plus 18 months community control and 18 months of probation. After the community control was revoked for a substantive violation, the lower court sentenced him to a mandatory minimum term of 20 years imprisonment under the 10-20-Life statute, section 775.087(2)(a).

The appellate court affirmed. Later the sentence was amended to state he retained his status as a youthful offender. He filed several challenges to his sentence. Among these challenges was a motion to correct an illegal sentence under Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure 3.800(a). He claimed the mandatory minimum term was unlawful since was more than the most the court could impose for a youthful offender’s second-degree felony.

When the lower court denied his motion, he appealed. The appellate court found the sentencing court didn’t have statutory authority to place a mandatory minimum term on a youthful offender that substantively violated community control or probation. After the appellate court decided the case, the Florida Supreme Court held in a different case that when a defendant is sentenced at first to community control or probation as a youthful offender, and the lower court revokes supervision due to a substantive probation violation and places a sentence above the youthful offender maximum, the court is required to impose the mandatory minimum sentence that would have initially applied to the crime.

The appellate court held section 948.06(1) clearly provided for imposition of the sentence that was initially available to the sentencing judge. The sentence can be imposed under the youthful offender designation, or an adult sanction can be imposed in which case the court would also need to place a mandatory minimum provision related to the offense. If the court imposed a sentence that went beyond a six-year cap, the sentence would be an adult sentence in which the defendant didn’t maintain his youthful offender status.

The appellate court explained that the defendant had perpetrated a substantive violation of community control. The lower court didn’t resentence him to a youthful offender sentence but instead put in place an adult sanction. Accordingly, the lower court needed to impose the mandatory minimum sentence for adults related to the offense. The twenty-year mandatory minimum term didn’t turn his sentence unlawful, and so the lower court denied the motion to correct it.

The appellate court sent the case back to the trial court to remove the youthful offender designation from the sentence.

If you’re charged with aggravated battery and you believe you are eligible to be sentenced under the Youthful Offender Act, you should hire an experienced Miami criminal defense attorney who understands the sentencing alternatives available. Call The Hoffman Firm at (305) 249-0090 or (800) 223-1866, or contact us via our online form.

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