What Happens If I’m Convicted at Trial?


Consequences of Being Found Guilty at Trial

Non-U.S. citizens may face deportation as a result of being found guilty of committing a crime. Felony and misdemeanor convictions, and under some circumstances juvenile adjudications, can be used to enhance state and federal sentences. Everyone convicted of a felony in Florida has to submit their DNA for it to be included in the state’s DNA database. A conviction could impact a person's ability to work, live in public housing or rent an apartment, and obtain college grants or scholarships. For a more detailed listing of other consequences of a conviction, you may download the document by clicking here.

Additionally, convicted felons lose access to certain federal benefits, the right to vote, serve in the military, own or possess a firearm, hold public office, serve on a jury and may have a difficult time obtaining a job because in Florida criminal court records are public records. In most cases, a convicted felon can apply to have his civil rights restored through the clemency process after completing the sentence.

For additional information on how to apply for clemency, click here.

 

Sentencing

Sentencing is the stage at which the judge imposes punishment after a finding of guilt that resulted from a trial, or entry of a plea of guilty or no contest by the client. The judge may order the Florida Department of Corrections to prepare a pre-sentence investigation (PSI) report and postpone sentencing until after the report has been submitted and reviewed.

The PSI includes information about the case and circumstances of the crime, any prior criminal record, the client’s reputation in the community, education, employment, health and background of the client’s family. The PSI may also include the client’s lifestyle, behavior pattern and general attitude. When the PSI is completed, the defense attorney reviews it with the client and prepares for the sentencing hearing. The defense attorney can have doctors or other experts evaluate the client and prepare a sentencing report with recommendations to be presented to the judge.

The defense attorney should know in advance the names and addresses of people who want to speak at the sentencing hearing on behalf of the client. At the sentencing hearing, the client has a right to speak and have the defense attorney make a presentation. The judge then informs the client of the finding of guilt and imposes the sentence, which can range from suspending the sentence, or a probation term, to the maximum jail or prison time allowable by law. The judge can, and, in some cases must, require the client to pay restitution to the victim and attorney (public defender) fees and court costs.

In capital cases, the maximum sentence is death and the law provides for a sentencing process that involves jurors making a recommendation to the judge regarding whether to impose the death penalty.
 

Appeals

A client has no right to appeal a plea of guilty or no contest, except when the judge allows him to reserve the right to appeal a particular point of law. A client who is convicted at trial and wants to appeal the conviction must file a notice of appeal within 30 days of being sentenced and must advise the appellate court of the exact errors in the trial. The client or the defense attorney must convince the appellate court that the trial judge’s errors affected the outcome of the case. Some common errors are that the judge did not follow the law or that the client was prevented from exercising his constitutional rights. In some cases, the judge may allow the client’s release on bail until a final decision by the appellate court. The judge will set a bond, pending the appeal, only if he believes the client has a good reason for appealing and that the client will re-appear in court. The client does not have an automatic right to bond during the appeal. It is possible that the client may serve the entire sentence during the appellate process.

 

Probation

Probation is an alternative to being sentenced to jail or prison, and as such carries significant limitations on the client’s liberties. The judge, using the sentencing guidelines (also referred to as the punishment code), may sentence a client to probation or community control (house arrest) instead of — or in addition to — serving time in jail or prison. A probationer is under the supervision of the Florida Department of Corrections and must abide by its rules until the sentence is completed. Probation may take the form of community control, an intensely supervised and restrictive program in which a probation officer makes regular unannounced visits to the probationer’s home and may electronically monitor the probationer’s movements. In addition to the visits, the probationer will regularly report to a probation officer, receive permission from his probation officer before changing addresses or jobs or leaving the county, and must not commit any new crimes or abuse drugs or alcohol while on probation or community control. If the probation officer believes that the probationer has violated any of the conditions of the probation, the officer can file an affidavit alleging the specific violations and may ask the judge to hold a hearing to determine if the probationer is in violation. A probationer can be arrested and held in jail pending the probation violation hearing. At the hearing, if the judge finds that the probationer violated the terms, the judge may revoke the probation and sentence the client to jail or prison or extend the probationary period. If the judge finds the probationer did not violate the terms of probation, the probationer is restored to probation.
 

Fees, Costs and Restitution

The services of the Public Defender are not free unless the client is acquitted (found not guilty) or the charges are dismissed. If the judge makes a finding of guilt after plea or trial, the judge may require the client to pay attorney’s fees for the reasonable value of the services the Public Defender provided, court costs and restitution. The judge can require the payment of the costs and fees as a condition of the sentence or can impose a lien on the client’s property. If they are not imposed as a lien, the Clerk of the Court will enroll the client in a payment plan. Additionally, a judgment may be filed against the client for the attorney's fees, court costs and restitution.
 

For an overview of consequences to an adult who is arrested or convicted, click here

 

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Law Offices of the Public Defender
Eleventh Judicial Circuit of Florida

 

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