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Johnson v. State

Florida Court of Appeals, First District

May 5, 2017

STERLING ALLEN JOHNSON, Appellant,
v.
STATE OF FLORIDA, Appellee.

         NOT FINAL UNTIL TIME EXPIRES TO FILE MOTION FOR REHEARING AND DISPOSITION THEREOF IF FILED

         An appeal from the Circuit Court for Washington County. Colby Peel, Judge.

          Andy Thomas, Public Defender, and Lori A. Willner, Assistant Public Defender, Tallahassee, for Appellant.

          Pamela Jo Bondi, Attorney General, and Quentin Humphrey, Assistant Attorney General, Tallahassee, for Appellee.

          BILBREY, J.

         Sterling Allen Johnson challenges the five-year prison sentence he received upon his conviction for fleeing or attempting to elude a law enforcement officer. Because the written findings made in support of the prison sanction are insufficient, we vacate the sentence and remand for entry of a non-state prison sanction.

         By amended information, Johnson was charged with (i) aggravated battery of a law enforcement officer and (ii) fleeing or attempting to elude a law enforcement officer. These charges followed a traffic stop for an equipment violation. During the stop, as the officer was waiting on warrants check, Johnson drove away; the officer had claimed he was dragged by Johnson's vehicle. The stop and Johnson's flight were captured on the video recorder on the officer's patrol car. The cause proceeded to a jury trial, and at the conclusion, Johnson was acquitted of the charge of aggravated battery on a law enforcement officer but was found guilty as charged with respect to the remaining count. A judgment entered in accordance with that verdict. Johnson's scoresheet produced a score of 5.6 points. Pursuant to section 775.082(10), Florida Statutes, the presumptive sentence for Johnson is a non-state sanction given that his scoresheet totaled less than 22 points and that he was convicted of a non-forcible third degree felony committed after 1999. The trial court sentenced Johnson to 5 years in prison. No written findings were entered in support of this sentence.

         Johnson moved to correct what he claimed to be an illegal sentence. The State agreed with Johnson that a written finding in support of the sentence was required by section 775.082(10), but disagreed that Johnson should be sentenced to a non-state sanction. The trial court thereafter refused to reduce the sentence and entered findings in support of it. The findings of the court were:

1. The defendant was released on bond for another charge at the time he committed the offense in this case.
2. The defendant was being taken into custody for failing to appear in court at the time he committed the offense in this case.
3. The defendant represented a specific danger to Officer Harrison. The video played during the course of the trial showed the defendant accelerating his vehicle into the roadway while the officer was partially in and/or attached to the defendant's vehicle.
4. The defendant represented a danger to other traffic as a semi-truck could be seen entering the video frame seconds after the defendant fled the scene of the traffic stop.
5. While the defendant was released on bond in the current case, he violated probation in a separate offense and pled to ...

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