FINAL UNTIL TIME EXPIRES TO FILE MOTION FOR REHEARING AND
DISPOSITION THEREOF IF FILED
appeal from the Circuit Court for Leon County. William Gary,
Jo Bondi, Attorney General, and Heather Flanagan Ross,
Assistant Attorney General, for Appellant.
Thomas, Public Defender, and Archie F. Gardner, Jr.,
Assistant Public Defender, for Appellee.
State appeals the disposition of a juvenile delinquency case
claiming that the trial court erroneously deviated from the
Department of Juvenile Justice's (the Department's)
recommended disposition without giving reasons as required by
E.A.R. v. State, 4 So.3d 614 (Fla. 2009). We affirm
because the court did not deviate from the Department's
appellee juvenile in this case, I.D., pled no contest to a
misdemeanor battery charge, after which the trial court
requested a predisposition report (PDR) from the Department.
The Department's amended report presented a conditional
recommendation based upon section 985.441(2), Florida
Statutes, that I.D. be committed to a non-secure residential
commitment program "conditioned upon the court finding
by a preponderance of the evidence 'that the protection
of the public requires such placement or that the needs of
the child would be best served by such placement.'"
§ 985.441(2)(d), Fla. Stat. In the absence of such
findings, the statute provided for the court to sentence
misdemeanor offenders like I.D. to a minimum-risk,
non-residential commitment program. After the disposition
hearing here, the trial court chose the latter route,
committing I.D. to a minimum-risk, non-residential commitment
program, a step below non-secure residential, and ordering
the Department of Children and Families to find placement for
the trial court is permitted wide latitude in making
juvenile-offender commitment decisions, if it deviates from
the commitment level recommended by the Department in a PDR,
it must give reasons for disregarding the Department's
assessment and recommendation. § 985.433(7)(b), Fla.
Stat.; E.A.R., 4 So.3d at 635. Here, the State
appeals what it considers to be a deviation from the
Department's recommendation without giving reasons for
the departure. State v. A.C., 44 So.3d 1240 (Fla.
5th DCA) (recognizing the State's standing to appeal on
the basis that the trial court departed from the
Department's recommendation without making required
findings). The Department's PDR in this case made a
recommendation straight from the statute, § 985.441(2).
Tracking the statute, it recommended non-secure residential
placement for I.D. "conditioned upon" whether the
trial court made findings that public safety required the
placement or that the needs of the child were best served by
the placement. See § 985.441(2)(d), Fla. Stat.
By conditioning its recommendation under this statute, the
Department's recommendation incorporated §
985.441(2)'s directive, applicable in the absence of
findings, that the court "not commit the child for any
misdemeanor offense . . . at a restrictiveness level other
than minimum-risk nonresidential."[*] Because the Department conditioned its
recommendation upon the trial court's findings of
fact-approving either "a non-secure residential
placement" with additional fact-finding, or minimum-risk
nonresidential without additional findings-we cannot conclude
that the trial court deviated from its recommendation. The
trial court chose the latter recommended course and
didn't need to explain its reasons as though it had
deviated from the Department's restrictiveness level
AFFIRM the trial court's disposition because it did not
deviate from the Department's recommendation.
WETHERELL and M.K. ...