Judge's Table

FLORIDA STATE CRIMINAL APPEALS

JURISDICTION AND SCOPE OF CRIMINAL APPEALS

A Florida state criminal defendant has the right to directly appeal a conviction, under article V, section 4(b) of the Florida Constitution. Appellate review is available only when the trial court's work on the case is complete. A defendant is permitted to appeal once sentenced following a verdict of guilty  or following a plea of guilty or nolo contendere. Appeals are also permitted from orders denying postconviction relief, or from orders revoking or modifying probation or community control (following violation of probation or community control hearings). When a defendant takes an appeal following a final order, the appellate court is required to review all rulings and orders appearing in the record that are necessary to evaluate the appeal. So, a defense appeal following entry of judgment and sentence may challenge pretrial, trial, and post-trial rulings of the trial judge. But the scope of appellate issues that may be presented by a defendant, particularly following a plea of guilty or nolo contendere, is limited.

CRIMINAL CROSS-APPEALS

 

Also, when the prosecution seeks an appeal, under Florida Rule of Appellate Procedure 9.140(c), the defense is permitted to cross-appeal as to any related issue which was resolved in the order under appeal.

 

INTERLOCUTORY CRIMINAL APPEALS  

 

A defendant is also entitled to immediate review of certain nonfinal orders, through filing a petition for an extraordinary writ. For example, habeas corpus may test the lawfulness of conditions of pretrial detention. Also, prohibition is an extraordinary writ that secures immediate review of a trial judge's order denying a motion to dismiss an indictment or information based on expiration of the relevant limitations period, or an order denying a motion to dismiss an indictment or information on a claim of immunity from prosecution, or an order denying a motion for discharge of the defendant on speedy trial grounds, or an order denying a motion to disqualify the trial judge, or an order denying a motion to dismiss an indictment or information on the basis of double jeopardy. Florida Rule of Appellate Procedure 9.100 sets the procedures followed as to extraordinary writ proceedings.

 

INEFFECTIVE ASSISTANCE OF COUNSEL - RULE 3.850

 

Several types of claims for relief may be presented under rule 3.850. These include claims of fundamental error, conflict of interest claims, incompetent counsel claims, claims for specific performance of a plea agreement, claims for withdrawal of a plea of guilty or nolo contendere, claims relating to false prosecution testimony, claims that the prosecution withheld favorable evidence from the defense, newly discovered evidence claims, claims relying upon new caselaw. Only sentences that fail to comply with statutory or constitutional limitations may be challenged under the rule.

A rule 3.850 motion is filed in the trial court that entered the judgment and sentence (even though a prisoner may not be housed within the territorial jurisdiction of that court). And a motion under rule 3.850 may properly be filed only when the case is “final.” Criminal cases are final when the direct appellate process is finished. If no appeal is taken from a judgment and sentence entered by a Florida trial court, the case becomes final when the time permitted for taking an appeal expires, 30 days following rendition of the judgment and sentence. If an appeal is taken, the case becomes final when the appellate court issues its mandate at the conclusion of that appeal. 

 

Generally, rule 3.850 places a two-year time limit on filing motions under the rule, and untimely motions may be dismissed or denied. The two-year time period begins to run when the conviction and sentence first become “final,” and a motion must be “filed” within the two-year period following the date on which the case becomes final. However, there are at least eight recognized exceptions to this general time limitation.

 

Newly discovered evidence claims may be presented beyond the two-year time period specified in the rule, so long as the evidence was previously unknown and could not have been found through reasonable efforts. A newly discovered evidence claim must also be filed within two years of when the new evidence was or could have been discovered.

 

Also, a claim based upon an retroactive application of new decisional law may be presented beyond the two-year time period specified in the rule if the new decision is handed down after a case becomes final, but a claim of this sort must be filed no later than two years following issuance of the mandate in the decision announcing the new retroactive decision.

 

A rule 3.850 motion to vacate a sentence that exceeds the limits provided by law may be filed “at any time.” And a rule 3.850 motion challenging the trial court's jurisdiction to enter the judgment under attack may also be filed at any time.

 

Under rule 3.850(b)(3), a belated motion may be filed when the movant retained counsel to file a timely rule 3.850 motion but that counsel carelessly failed to file a timely motion.

 

Tthe time prescribed by the rule for filing a rule 3.850 motion is stops when an unrepresented prisoner without access to Florida legal materials is imprisoned outside Florida.

 

A 3.850 motion can be filed only when the case is “final.” Criminal cases are final when the direct appellate process is done. If no appeal is taken from a judgment and sentence entered by a Florida trial court, the case becomes final when the time permitted for taking an appeal expires, thirty days following rendition of the judgment and sentence. But if an appeal is taken, the case becomes final when the appellate court issues its mandate at the conclusion of the appeal.

 

Except in limited circumstances, rule 3.850 places that two-year time limit following finality on filing motions; untimely motions may be dismissed or denied. 

 

However, there are recognized exceptions to this general time limitation. Newly discovered evidence claims may be presented beyond the two-year time period specified in the rule, as long as the evidence was previously unknown to the movant or his attorney and could not have been ascertained through due diligence, but a newly discovered evidence claim must still be filed within two years following the date on which the new evidence was or could have been discovered through reasonable effort. A claim based upon an asserted right to retroactive application of new decisional caselaw may be presented beyond the two-year time period specified in the rule if the new decision is handed down after a movant's case becomes final. However, a claim of this sort must be filed no later than two years following issuance of the mandate in the decision announcing the retroactive nature of the new decision. And a rule 3.850 motion to vacate a sentence that exceeds the statutory limits provided by law may be filed “at any time.” A rule 3.850 motion challenging the trial court's jurisdiction to enter the judgment under attack may also be filed at any time. And a belated motion under rule 3.850 may be filed when the movant retained counsel to file a timely rule 3.850 motion but that counsel, through neglect, failed to file a timely motion.The time prescribed by the rule for filing a rule 3.850 motion is tolled during the time that an unrepresented prisoner without access to Florida legal materials is imprisoned outside Florida. An unrepresented prisoner's motion for postconviction relief is timely “filed” for purposes of the rule if it is entrusted to agents of the state for further delivery to the trial court within the two-year period specified in the rule, and this is so even if the motion does not actually reach the trial court for formal filing until after the two-year period has expired.

 

Notable, the time for filing under the rule may be extended by the trial judge pursuant to Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.050, which authorizes an extension before the expiration of the prescribed filing period upon a showing of “good cause” or if the late filing of a motion after the prescribed filing period has expired upon a showing of “excusable neglect.”

 

JAIL CREDIT CLAIMS - RULE 3.801

 

A claim that a sentence did not afford a defendant all the credit for time she spent in the county jail before sentencing must proceed under rule 3.801.

 

SENTENCING ERRORS - RULE 3.800

 

There are three types of sentencing errors that may be remedied under rule 3.800(a): (1) an incorrect calculation made by the court in a sentencing scoresheet; (2) an erroneous sexual predator designation; and (3) an “illegal” sentence. But this error may be established only by reference to the trial court records without any further evidentiary development of the record. If a sentence has been imposed under a miscalculated sentencing scoresheet—and that miscalculation is apparent from the face of the trial court records—a sentence imposed under the miscalculated scoresheet may be vacated and the defendant resentenced, but only if the sentence that was imposed could not have been lawfully imposed under a correctly calculated sentencing scoresheet. And if a defendant has erroneously been designated a sexual offender and the error in this regard is apparent from an examination of the face of the trial court records, the defendant may employ the rule to secure the removal of the incorrect designation.

The third type of sentencing error that may be remedied under rule 3.800(a), an “illegal” sentence, is rather difficult to define. Mere procedural deficiencies in the sentencing process do not make a sentence illegal. And a sentence that violates neither the constitution nor a criminal sentencing statute is not an illegal sentence. So the precise contours of the illegal sentence concept are elusive. But an illegal sentence is one which patently fails to comport with statutory or constitutional limitations. Thus, a sentence more harah than the sentence prescribed by statute is an illegal sentence, and so is a sentence enhanced in violation of the Double Jeopardy Clause or the constitutional right to trial by jury.

 

A rule 3.800(a) motion, like a rule 3.850 motion, must be filed in the trial court that entered the judgment and sentence, and it may not be filed before the judgment and sentence are final.

Unlike a rule 3.850 motion, there is no time limitation for a rule 3.800(a) motion to be filed, and a rule 3.800(a) motion does not need to be sworn. And a rule 3.800(a) motion need not include as much detailed procedural history as is required for a rule 3.850 motion. But a rule 3.800(a) motion should be detailed enough to show the basis for the claim and the relevant portions of the trial court records.

 

Because a rule 3.800(a) motion is decided on the basis of the trial court records, without resort to an evidentiary hearing, a judge only reviews the motion, the court records, and the law to decide the merits of the motion. Upon reaching a decision, the judge enters an order disposing of the motion. If the motion has merit, appropriate relief is granted. But if the motion lacks merit (because it is based upon a faulty legal premise or because the trial court records do not establish entitlement to relief), an order denying the motion and explaining why the motion is being denied will be entered.

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