Floyd v. State, 2D14-2596 (February 3, 2016)
Trial Court erred by imposing a life sentence for sexual battery with a weapon where the Court previously engaged in pretrial negotiations encouraging the defendant to accept a 25-year prison sentence. The Court then explained that a post-trial sentence would be harsher, and gave no explanation for imposing the life sentence following trial. The Court here did more than advise the defendant of the offer and his options; rather, the Court advocated for the pre-trial offer. The advocacy combined with its statement advising the defendant that he would receive a harsher sentence after trial created an unrebutted presumption of vindictive sentencing. Reversed and remanded for new sentencing before a different judge.
Note: Prior to relying upon the holding in this case, the facts should be analyzed carefully. Trial courts are permitted to advise defendants of pre-trial offers, and are permitted to engage in negotiation. In addition, it is not uncommon for offers to be rejected post-trial, and for courts to explain such to the defendant. In this case, it appears that the DCA focused upon the Court’s direct advocacy, along with its admonishment and its failure to articulate a single reason justifying the significant departure from the pre-trial negotiations.