In Florida, a sentencing court has broad discretion to impose special probation conditions. Those conditions must have a reasonable relationship to rehabilitation. Courts often impose limitations on the use of alcohol, but when such limitations do not have a reasonable relationship to rehabilitation, they are not valid.
The Second District recently considered whether a condition ordering the defendant not to consume or possess alcohol was valid in the case of Williams v. State. The defendant was convicted of grand theft related to merchandise stolen from a store. The trial court found him to be a habitual felony offender and imposed an 18-month prison sentence and four years of probation. At sentencing, the judge stated that the defendant had said he was using marijuana daily at the time he went to jail. The judge said the defendant also used cocaine daily and “mollies” on weekends. The judge further said that the defendant “also stated that he would drink alcohol every other day and on the weekends.” The appeals court opinion states that there was not any evidence presented that addressed the role alcohol had played in the defendant’s life. The trial court placed special conditions as part of the defendant’s probation that required him to have a drug and alcohol evaluation and complete treatment if deemed necessary. The defendant would also be required to pay any costs for the evaluation and treatment, unless the court waived them. The trial court also “ordered no alcohol while on probation.” The parties and the appeals court interpreted this condition to mean the defendant would be prohibited from possessing or consuming alcohol during his probation.
The defendant moved to correct the sentencing error, but the trial court denied the motion and held that the special conditions were related to criminal conduct and that they restrained conduct that was related to future criminal behavior.
The Second District has established three factors, which have been approved by the Florida Supreme Court, to be considered in determining if a probation condition is reasonably related to rehabilitation. A condition is not valid if it does not have a relationship to the crime, is related to conduct that is not criminal, and requires or prohibits conduct that “is not reasonably related to future criminality.”
Here, the Second District found no connection between the consumption of alcohol and the crime. Furthermore, alcohol consumption is legal. As for the third factor, the appeals court noted that, with no evidentiary connection between alcohol use and prior criminal behavior, there should be “some particularized evidence” to show that alcohol use would be related to future criminal activity. The record did not contain any such evidence. None of the factors supported the special conditions related to alcohol. The appeals court further noted that, aside from the factors, there was no showing that the conditions were connected to the defendant’s rehabilitation in a general sense.
The Second District affirmed the judgment and sentence, but it reversed the condition prohibiting use and possession of alcohol and the portion of the other condition that required the defendant to be evaluated and treated for alcohol abuse. The appeals court reversed in part and remanded.
Unrelated restrictions on the use of alcohol can make it more difficult for a person to successfully complete probation. Our Florida theft defense attorneys know Florida sentencing laws and can fight for your rights. If you are facing criminal charges, call Anidjar & Levine at (800) 747-3733, or submit an online contact form.
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