Understanding Florida’s “Prison Releasee Reoffender” Law
Florida’s criminal laws contain a number of traps designed to make it easier to impose harsher sentences on certain defendants. For example, if a person is released from prison after committing a crime, they can be charged as a “prison releasee reoffender” (PRR) if they commit a new “qualifying offense” within three years. To illustrate, let’s say Phil was convicted of a drug crime and sentenced to prison. Phil was released in May 2019. If he commits another qualifying crime under the PRR law, such as manslaughter or aggravated battery, before May 2022, the court would have to impose a much harsher sentence than normal based on Phil’s PRR status.
Supreme Court: Defendant Cannot Appeal Completed Prison Sentence Based on Potential PRR Status
The Florida Supreme Court recently addressed a notable civil rights question related to the PRR law. The case before the Court, Casiano v. State, involved a defendant who pleaded “no contest” to several driving offenses. By law, the trial court should have sentenced the defendant to no more than one year of probation. Instead, the judge held the defendant posed a danger to the community and ordered him to spend one year and one day in prison, followed by nearly four years of probation.
The defendant appealed the prison requirement of his sentence, pointing out it conflicted with binding Florida Supreme Court precedent on the subject. An intermediate appeals court, however, declined to address this as by the time the appeal was heard, the defendant had already served his year-and-a-day prison sentence. The intermediate court therefore held the appeal was moot.
Which brings us back to the Supreme Court. The question now was not whether the defendant’s original sentence was illegal, but whether he could still pursue the appeal based on its potential effect under the PRR law. In other words, if the defendant’s prison sentence stood, then he would be hypothetically subject to the PRR law if he commits a qualifying offense within three years of his release. The defense said this meant the underlying appeal was not moot.
The Supreme Court disagreed. It held the defendant’s “potential PRR status is too speculative to be considered a collateral legal consequence of his unlawful sentence.” Indeed, for this issue to come up, the defendant would “still need to commit or attempt to commit” a qualifying offense within the three-year window. And since the defendant has not committed, or been charged with, such a crime, his status as a PRR has “no actual effect” on his legal rights.
Contact Florida Criminal Defense Lawyer Jose Baez Today
A criminal conviction often carries a number of “collateral” effects that the defendant may not fully appreciate. An experienced Orlando criminal attorney can help you understand these consequences and fight for your rights in court. If you need legal advice or representation, contact the Baez Law Firm today.