Florida’s Fourth DCA Reverses Dismissal of Charges Against Public Official, And The Court Still Struggles With Retroactivity of Padilla in Postconviction Cases

by appealattorneylaw

In an opinion released this week, the Fourth District Court of Appeal in West Palm Beach held that the trial court erred by dismissing corruption charges against a public official.   Although the opinion is not final until any motion for rehearing is disposed of, the opinion essentially allows the State to resume prosecution of the official.  Since it’s pretty uncommon to see public corruption charges in State court (most public corruption cases arise in federal court), this would be a good opinion to read.  Not only will it be helpful to criminal defense attorneys who defend public corruption cases, but the opinion also contains a good discussion of motions to dismiss and traverses under Fla. R. Crim. P. 3.190(c)(4).

Criminal appeals attorneys should take a few minutes to read another opinion released by the Fourth DCA, Perez v. State, 4D10-3180, because it shows that the Court is still struggling with the issue of whether Padilla v. Kentucky, 550 U.S. 356 (2010), applies retroactively in postconviction cases.  In support of its holding that Padilla would not apply retroactively, the Court reasoned that Perez’s conviction became final before the Padilla opinion issued, and Perez did not file his motion for postconviction relief until after Padilla.  The majority opinion, authored by newly-appointed Judge Forst, contains a good discussion of Padilla, Hernandez v. State, 37 Fla. L. Weekly S730, S731-32 (Fla. Nov. 21, 2012), in which the Florida Supreme Court held that Padilla does not apply retroactively, and Chaidez v. United States, 133 S.Ct. 1103, 1113 (2013), where the United States Supreme Court held that a defendant may not obtain federal relief based on Padilla where his or her conviction became final on direct review before Padilla was decided.  Judge Stevenson authored a well-reasoned dissent wherein he stated that he would apply Padilla retroactively because Perez’s postconviction motion was already in the pipeline when Padilla was decided.