Unrelated, Unsubstantiated Allegations Not Allowed in Sentencing Hearing – Mosley v. State

A criminal justice process should be fair to defendants. A defendant is entitled not only to a fair trial but also to a fair sentencing hearing. In the recent case of Mosley v. State, the Second District reviewed whether the trial court had erred in allowing testimony regarding unsubstantiated allegations unrelated to the case before the court.

The defendant was convicted of possession of cannabis with intent to sell/manufacture/deliver within 1,000 feet of a public housing project, one count of misdemeanor cannabis possession, one count of possession of drug paraphernalia, and four counts of felony drug possession. Following a sentencing hearing, the circuit court sentenced him to seven years in prison. He appealed both the convictions and the sentence. The Second District affirmed the convictions without discussion but addressed his argument regarding the sentencing.

The State requested no less than a 10-year prison sentence, while the defendant asked for probation. The defendant’s Criminal Punishment Code scoresheet indicated “any non-state prison sanction” as the lowest possible sentence.

The only witness for the State was a detective who testified to several matters outside the crimes before the court that were not included on the scoresheet. He talked about search warrants that were executed at the defendant’s house, the recovery of drugs and weapons from the home, a subsequent arrest for the sale of narcotics, a stabbing in front of his home, a jailhouse fight, and the defendant’s alleged involvement with a home invasion during which someone died.

The defendant’s attorney objected repeatedly to the detective’s testimony, with the court sustaining only some of the objections. The defense attorney requested that the court disregard the allegations of unsubstantiated misconduct presented by the State and focus only on the crimes before it. The court stated it had “primarily” considered the case before it, but it further stated there could have been “some consideration of other factors.”

It is the State’s burden to prove that the court did not consider impermissible factors during sentencing. Florida case law holds that a trial court cannot rely upon unsubstantiated allegations or speculation when rendering a sentence. The defendant had not been charged in relation to the alleged drug activity around his home, the jailhouse fight, or the home invasion when he was sentenced. The State did not show any connection between those events and the case before it.

The Second District found that the trial court erred in allowing the allegations of unsubstantiated and unrelated conduct into the sentencing hearing. The Second District affirmed the conviction and reversed and vacated the sentence. The Second District remanded for resentencing, specifying that the resentencing should be before another judge.

The experienced criminal defense attorneys at Anidjar & Levine understand the importance of a fair process and are willing to fight for your rights. If you are facing drug charges, call us at 800-747-3733 or submit an online contact form.

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