I may have used a lot of acronyms in the title, but I bet I’ve got your attention, right? It’s Wednesday, which is opinion day in Florida’s 4th DCA. Although most of the opinions in the criminal appeals were in favor of the State, I came across one that’s worth a quick note.
In Cosme v. State, 4D09-1650 and 4D09-1652, the Court reversed a sentence imposed after the defendant was found guilty of violating his probation. Although Cosme had been given the benefit of a YO sentence when he was originally sentenced, after finding him guilty of the VOP, the trial judge revoked his probation and sentenced him to concurrent life sentences on all 3 counts. In so doing, the trial judge apparently listened to the statement of the ASA, who informed the judge that she could sentence Cosme to the maximum sentence of life, “without the constraints of the criminal punishment code.” Slip op., pg. 1.
After Cosme was sentenced, the ASA prepared a scoresheet, showing that Cosme’s lowest permissible sentence was 12.25 years, and handed it to the trial judge. The judge then told the ASA to note on the scoresheet that the Guidelines weren’t applicable because Cosme was originally sentenced as a YO. The trial judge signed the scoresheet, and the case eventually came up on appeal to the 4th DCA.
Notwithstanding the fact that Cosme and his counsel failed to object, the 4th DCA nevertheless reversed because the trial judge pronounced the sentence before being provided a scoresheet, and because both the ASA and the judge stated that the guidelines were not applicable when in fact they were. Slip op., pg. 2. Although the 4th DCA acknowledged that the 6- year cap doesn’t apply to a YO sentence imposed following a substantive VOP, the Court emphasized that reversal was required in Cosme’s case because the record did not conclusively show that the same sentences would have been imposed had the trial judge considered a correct scoresheet before imposing sentence.
Of note, Cosme’s case originates in Broward County. For those of you who practice in Broward, you may want to be on the lookout for this type of sentencing issue the next time you’re representing someone who had been given a YO sentence and then gets charged with violating his or her probation. If the judge fails to consider a properly completed scoresheet before imposing sentence, you may have a good basis for appeal pursuant to Cosme.