The standard of review in criminal cases often turns on whether the decision being appealed is a decision of fact, a decision of law, or a discretionary decision.
Decisions of law are generally reviewed under the de novo standard. See Ornelas v. United States, 517 U.S. 690 (1996); Connor v. State, 803 So. 2d 598 (Fla. 2001). Orders granting a motion to dismiss an information or granting a judgment of acquittal may be reviewed under such standard. See State v. Pasko, 815 So. 2d 680 (Fla. 2d DCA 2002) (dismissal); Huggins v. State, 889 So. 2d 743 (Fla. 2004) (judgment of acquittal).
Many decisions in criminal cases are reviewed under the abuse of discretion standard. Such decisions include orders on motions to change venue, orders on motions to appoint experts to indigent defendants, orders finding the defendant competent to stand trial, orders relating to discovery, orders regarding severance or consolidation, orders on motions to continue trial, and orders on motions to withdraw a plea. See Rivera v. State, 859 So. 2d 495 (Fla. 2003) (venue); Robbins v. State, 891 So. 2d 1102 (Fla. 5th DCA 2004) (appointment of expert); Ferguson v. State, 789 So. 2d 306 (Fla. 2001) (competency); State v. Tascarella, 580 So. 2d 154 (Fla. 1991) (discovery); Crossley v. State, 596 So. 2d 447 (Fla. 1992) (consolidation or severance); Bouie v. State, 559 So. 2d 1113 (Fla. 1990) (continuance); Taylor v. State, 870 So. 2d 72 (Fla. 2d DCA 2003) (withdrawal of plea).
Some decisions are reviewable under more complex standards, such as orders granting or denying motions to suppress, or decisions to depart from the sentencing guidelines. See State v. Glatzmayer, 789 So. 2d 297, 301 (Fla. 2001) (motion to suppress); C.A.M. v. State, 819 So. 2d 802 (Fla. 4th DCA 2001) (motion to suppress); Banks v. State, 732 So. 2d 1065 (Fla. 1999) (departure from guidelines).
A special standard of review applies to convictions based on circumstantial evidence. See State v. Law, 559 So. 2d 187, 188 (Fla. 1989) (“Where the only proof of guilt is circumstantial, no matter how strongly the evidence may suggest guilt, a conviction cannot be sustained unless the evidence is inconsistent with any reasonable hypothesis of innocence.”) (citation omitted).