Sunday, May 26, 2013

Comment: Miller, Graham, and Resentencing of Juveniles Sentenced Under Mandatory Sentencing Schemes

Hon. William H. Burgess, III, B.C.S.

Miller v. Alabama1 provides little guidance on how to proceed with resentencing juveniles convicted under mandatory sentencing schemes. Under Miller, while a sentence of life without parole remains constitutional in homicide cases, the sentencing court must be free to impose a lesser sentence when the defendant’s youth or the circumstances of the crime so indicate. Florida Statutes, however, do not currently provide for lesser sentences in first-degree murder cases. Miller has thus opened a breach in Florida’s sentencing statutes. The rule adopted by the First and Third Districts has been for the court to exercise restraint and for the parties to make their case before the trial court, where testimony may be taken, evidence presented, and argument made on all material issues to include the potential range of sentencing options.2

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Sentencing for Unlawful Filing of False Documents or Records Against Real or Personal Property

Handcuffs_Transparent_PNG_by_AbsurdWordPreferredby Hon. William H. Burgess, III, B.C.S.

At the end of April, 2013, the Florida Legislature passed, and has sent on to the Governor for signature, Senate Bill 112, a tough new law aimed at fully criminalizing the filing of false documents or records against real or personal property, and revising penalties for criminal actions under color of law or through use of simulated legal process. The Governor is expected to sign the bill into law in due course.  If signed by the Governor, the law will take effect on October 1, 2013.

There is a perception among more than a few prosecutors and civil attorneys that fraud is widespread in the civil courts, especially in the area of property litigation and that there is little to be done about it. SB 112 is a response to such concerns and is directed at a variety of fraudulent practices being perpetrated in civil court. The bill is directed, in particular, at the practice of filing false financial statements and bogus liens against the property of public officials and employees.1 While the bill is aimed primarily at non-lawyers and pro se litigants, the provisions of the proposed law are applicable to unscrupulous lawyers as well.