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FL: Florida Supreme Court makes it risky for a defendant to tell a judge ‘I’m innocent’

Source: 12/7/21

The Florida Supreme Court is sending this message to criminal defendants: If you think you were wrongly convicted, keep it to yourself.

Ignoring long-standing law, the justices decided that when defendants dare to dispute their guilt instead of owning the crime, state trial judges may pile on extra prison time.

The court ruled last Thursday in the case of Alvin Davis, a 43-year-old black man with a lengthy rap sheet that includes convictions for attempted murder, robbery and aggravated battery with a deadly weapon.

After a jury found him guilty of a new charge, firearm possession, Davis told the judge he did not commit the crime.

“You still fail to take any responsibility for your actions,” Tallahassee Circuit Judge Robert Wheeler replied. He slapped Davis with the maximum possible prison sentence, 15 years.

On Thursday the high court voted 5-2 to uphold Davis’s sentence. The opinion settles a conflict among the state’s district courts of appeal with one rule for all:  A judge may consider for sentencing purposes “the defendant’s freely offered statements, including those indicating a failure to accept responsibility.”

With that, the justices normalized a penalty for defendants who proclaim their innocence. They’re entitled to address the court before sentencing, a procedure called allocution.

Read the full article


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So, either they guy makes a false statement or gets maximum sentence. He either shoots himself in the foot with any pending appeals or he gets maximum sentence… wow what justice this is.

Or he reserves comment and allows his attorney to do the talking….for better or worse. 🤷🏻‍♂️

This is common practice for CA courts I assume. I was offered 8 months alternative sentence and probation if I accepted the deal but since I fought it I got 5 years 4 months in prison and additional charges added on. How many people have done 5 years 4 months in prison for a 664/288(a)?

Is this really so surprising? “Lack of remorse” is normally the excuse provided in order to impose the trial penalty – a heavier sentence than the one offered at plea bargaining.

A judge may also consider acts of which the accused had been acquitted. Get that? You go to trial on several charges. The jury finds you innocent of let’s say 5 out of 6 counts. You go for sentencing on that one count. The judge, when determining a just and fair sentence, may take into consideration ALL of the acts for which you were originally charged INCLUDING the acts for which you were acquitted. That’s fair, right?

Then, in the criminal justice system, there is “the trial penalty”, where if you choose to fight your case and take it to trial, and lose, you will receive a far more severe sentence. Guilt and innocence have nothing to do with it.

The justification for this is “well you knew you were guilty and yet you chose to take up everyone’s time, and it cost a lot of money. And it’s essential that we send a clear message to others sitting in jail that if they fight their case as you have, they ARE going to get a stiffer sentence. We need them to plea out otherwise the system will crumble under the weight of having to have thousands of trials. The judge doesn’t like that. So you get to spend more time in prison (which will cost even more money) because you didn’t go along with the system”.

What a country.

In federal court they add some other “totally fair” things as well.

A Federal Judge is not a party in a plea agreement between the defense and prosecution. While Judges tend not to vary too far downwards from what is agreed on they are under no obligation to follow a plea agreement. This includes ignoring other counts on an indictment or criminal complaint. The prosecution can move to dismiss a count at sentencing, but even if they do the Judge can consider it as part of sentencing.

Accepting responsibility can grant someone a two point reduction in their sentencing points for the federal sentencing guidelines table. Every offense is given a base point level with enhancements adding points. Those points start at 0 and go up, I don’t remember what the highest number on the table is. Though I’m pretty sure it has a + after it. There are then ranges of points that correlate to levels on the table for the number of months in prison for each range. Let’s say 0 to 14 points would give someone a guidelines range of 0 to 12 months imprisonment. 15 to 30 points might be 12 to 36 months imprisonment. At various places on the table a 1 or 2 point reduction can make a huge difference especially at highest levels where that’s 10 to 20 years instead of 20 to 30 years or 30 to 40 rather than 40 to life as an example.

The trial option is worse. A U.S. Attorney or Assistant U.S. Attorney make it clear that because they have to exert more effort in trial prep they will look into evidence more possibly allowing for additional charges. They will also push for a harsher penalties including more prison time. Private defense attorneys can charge extra to prepare a client for trial.


One of my pet peeves is people making unnecessary swipes at defense attorneys. Nothing personal, just something that irritates me. (Referring to the last line of your posting above). So I thought I’d say something that may shine a more accurate light on the defense bar.

While there may be a very small number of defense attorneys that “churn” their cases (churn meaning intentionally creating or performing needless work on a case, and/or advising their client not to take a deal just so they can take the case to trial and then charge the client more money, thus increasing their revenues, etc.), the vast majority of defense attorneys that I chose to work with over my 25-year career as a defense investigator did NOT do this. More typically, the unethical defense attorney who was seeking to maximize his/her profits would take the client’s money, do as little as possible, agree to the initial plea offer from the prosecution, and then scare, bully, and lie to the client into taking the deal even if there was a reasonable chance of getting a better deal through continued negotiations, and/or even if there existed persuasive evidence indicating true innocence. These lawyers are universally referred to as “dump trucks” – taking the retainer money and then ‘dumping’ the case. They look to maximize revenues through a high volume of cases, not longer cases. The attorney actually LOSES money by taking the case to trial, UNLESS you are a trial attorney who ONLY does trials (I worked with one such attorney for much of my career. He was legendary and if you were going to trial, he was the guy).

Either way, I wouldn’t work with those who weren’t seeking to attain the best outcome for their clients. Reputations are quickly earned, and when seeking an attorney in a criminal case, most defendants “asked around”, and found out who were the good ones, and who were the “dump trucks”. More typically it was the client who chose to go to trial against the advice of the attorney. Or worse, chose to represent themselves (in propria persona). With very rare exceptions, that’s not a good idea.

a jury never finds you innocent – innocent and not guilty are not the same.

Not the same but similar to what happened to guys required to do treatment before consideration for release from prison. The first step to treatment was “taking responsibility for your crimes” so anyone who contended he was innocent was barred from entering the treatment program. By not entering the program, they were eliminating any chance of release – when their sentence was up they were often referred for civil commitment under WI Chapter 980.

I thought the court system was to find justice, not to increase punishment.

Last line from Chinatown: “Forget it, Jake. It’s Chinatown”

So..”Forget it, New Person. It’s America.”

Chinatown was where bad things happened all the time and the good guys couldn’t win anyway, regardless of their good intentions. Jake would be wise to just accept this fact and get over it, and move on down the road. So. Move on, nothing to see here.

@ New Person
If a survey were conducted asking the question: “What does it mean to bring a person to justice?”, answers would roughly be divided into two camps. The first group would speak of the person receiving sufficient punishment, and the second would refer to the legitimacy of the process. I’ll call the first the “retribution” group and the second as the “rule-of-law” group.

The retribution group is concerned with the outcome. The rule-of-law group is concerned with the process. I unabashedly fall into the rule-of-law group. If the processes is compromised or lacks integrity, there can be no justice no matter the outcome. If the process is adhered to and some innocents are punished or some guilty are not, then we can modify the process to achieve whatever result society deems to be just.

Generally victims and victims advocates fall into the retribution group. How often have we heard from those harmed that justice was not done if an defendant was exonerated or not sufficiently (in their eyes) punished if found guilty? Similarly if a defendant is found guilty and punishment deemed adequate, the chorus will sing that justice has been done. These pronouncements regarding justice are dependent upon the outcome, and independent of the integrity of the process.

New Person, we are in an age where the concept of justice is increasingly dominated by the retribution group. That is reflected not only in the criminal system, but in sex offender registration arguments as well. Revenge and retaliation are not the same as retribution–a legitimate moral goal. We all know that the registry is intended as revenge, not retribution. But with a wink and a nod the registry is termed a civil regulatory measure necessary for public safety.

The court system does not exist to insure justice, but to extract revenge.


Sounds like the classic kafka trap logical fallacy to me. Denial is evidence of guilt. Man these people are nuts.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x