True Split Sentence Violation

When a judge sentences you to probation, there’s always a chance you violate. If you violate, you face jail or prison. To scare, sometimes a judge offers a suspended sentence. In a suspended sentence, the judge lets you know the punishment when you violate. It suspends the tough part for those who finish the easy part. Florida courts also call this a True Split Sentence.

For instance, a judge can sentence you to 1 year in prison suspended by the successful completion of 1 year of probation. That means that if you finish the probation clean, you never serve the prison. But if you violate, can the judge sentence you to more than the suspended sentence? Can the judge sentence you to 5 years in prison instead? The Fifth District Court of Appeal answers that in Dalton v. State.

Suspended Sentence, Violations and Modifications

In September 2016, Dalton pleas to Possession of Methamphetamine With Intent to Distribute and Simple Possession of Methamphetamine. Florida punishes these crimes by up to 15 and 5 years in prison respectively. Then the judge sentences her to 5 years of prison suspended by the successful completion of 2 years of Community Control. So if Dalton finishes Community Control without issue, she never serves any prison. To learn more about how Community Control varies from Probation, check out my page here!

Unsurprisingly, Dalton violates two months later. At a hearing in December 2016, the judge sentences her to 5 years in prison. While in prison, she enters a youthful offender basic training program. This program is like a boot camp. In exchange, the judge agrees to modify her sentence upon successful completion.

In March 2018, the judge converts Dalton’s prison sentence to probation. Significantly, he says he may “impose any sentence which it might have imposed before placing you on probation.” Unfortunately, after years without issue, Dalton admits testing positive for methamphetamine in January 2021. Thereafter, the judge sentences her to 5 years in prison for Possession and 11 years in prison for Possession with Intent. She files a Motion to Correct Sentence, which the judge denies.

Initial Sentence is a True Split Sentence

Dalton argues that the judge cannot sentence her to more than 5 years in prison. She claims he’s bound by the True Split Sentence. Because he suspends 5 years, that’s the max. The State claims that the judge can sentence her to up to 15 years because she accepts the youthful offender modification of her sentence. This change opens her up to the 15 year max.

The Fifth District disagrees with the State of Florida. It realizes the importance of the True Split Sentence. It sees that the terms never really change. First, the judge issues the True Split Sentence. Next, it sends Dalton to prison to the term of the suspended sentence. Then it releases her to finish the term out of custody. Most importantly, the judge says during the modification that he may “impose any sentence which it might have imposed before placing you on probation.” 5 years in prison is the most he could have sentenced Dalton under the suspended sentence of the True Split Sentence. Therefore, the court must change the 11 years to 5 and Dalton gets credit for all time served in prison.

Read the Dalton opinion here!

Talk to An Experienced Florida Criminal Defense Attorney

Violations of Probation become tricky because there are lots of rules to consider. Mr. Brown has handled hundreds of these and even argued lots of Final Violations of Probation hearings. Upon arrest, you should speak with him immediately to see if he can help you fight the allegations.

The criminal defense firm Brown Legal PLLC operates from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, but regularly handles cases throughout South Florida and the rest of the state. Before it’s too late, talk to Mr. Brown to see if he can help you with your case! Reach out over the phone at (954) 524-6700 or through the Contact Page if you have any questions.

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