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Knight v. State

Florida Court of Appeals, Third District

November 29, 2017

James Eric Knight, Appellant,
v.
The State of Florida, Appellee.

         Not final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.

         An Appeal under Florida Rule of Appellate Procedure 9.141 (b)(2) from the Circuit Court for Miami-Dade County No. 77-33454A, Stacy D. Glick, Judge.

          Carlos J. Martinez, Public Defender, and Jeffrey Paul DeSousa, Assistant Public Defender, for appellant.

          Pamela Jo Bondi, Attorney General, and Douglas J. Glaid, Senior Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

          Before SALTER, FERNANDEZ and LOGUE, JJ.

          SALTER, J.

         James Eric Knight appeals the denial of his Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.800(a) motion to correct an illegal sentence. As the motion alleged, Knight was sentenced in Count II for an uncharged offense. This was fundamental error. As such, the denial of the motion is reversed and remanded.

         Knight was charged in Count II of the information with robbery based on the taking of property "by force, violence, assault or putting in fear . . . in violation of 812.13 Florida Statutes . . . ." These are the elements of a simple robbery, a second-degree felony under section 812.13(2)(c), Florida Statutes (1977), for which the maximum sentence is 15 years under section 775.082(3)(c), Florida Statutes (1977).

         An armed robbery is committed, under section 812.13(2)(a), Florida Statutes (1977): "If in the course of committing the robbery the offender carried a firearm or other deadly weapon, then the robbery is a felony of the first degree, punishable by imprisonment for a term of years not exceeding life imprisonment . . . ." In this case, the recitation in Count II omits both the statutory subsection and the element of armed robbery - possession of a firearm by the defendant. As a result of the omissions, Count II did not allege the crime for which Knight was sentenced.

         Notwithstanding the shortcomings in the Count II allegations, Knight was sentenced to life in prison for the robbery.

         Knight filed a Rule 3.800(a) motion to correct the illegal sentence on Count II. He argued that because Count II did not charge the essential elements of the crime of armed robbery, he could only be sentenced to the 15 year maximum for the charged crime, simple robbery, as a second degree felony. The trial court denied Knight's motion. This appeal followed.

         "[A]n information is fundamentally defective where it fails to cite a specific section and totally omits an essential element of the crime." Weatherspoon v. State, 214 So.3d 578, 584 (Fla. 2017) (quoting Figueroa v. State, 84 So.3d 1158 (Fla. 4th DCA 2012)); State v. Gray, 435 So.2d 816, 818 (Fla. 1983). Weatherspoon explained the origins of the rule:

In addition to the violation of a defendant's right to be fully informed of the charges against him under article I, section 16, of the Florida Constitution, a defendant's right to due process under article I, section 9, is denied when there is a conviction on a charge not made in the information or indictment:
Due process of law requires the State to allege every essential element when charging a violation of law to provide the accused with sufficient notice of the allegations against him. . . . For an information to sufficiently charge a crime it must follow the statute, clearly charge each of the essential elements, and ...

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