Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Eustache v. State

Supreme Court of Florida

July 12, 2018

ROBIN EUSTACHE, Petitioner,
v.
STATE OF FLORIDA, Respondent.

         NOT FINAL UNTIL TIME EXPIRES TO FILE REHEARING MOTION AND, IF FILED, DETERMINED.

          Application for Review of the Decision of the District Court of Appeal - Certified Direct Conflict of Decisions Fourth District - Case No. 4D15-2596 (Palm Beach County)

          Peter D. Webster, David L. Luck, and Jorge A. Perez-Santiago of Carlton Fields Jorden Burt, P.A., Miami, Florida, for Petitioner

          Pamela Jo Bondi, Attorney General, Tallahassee, Florida, Celia A. Terenzio, Bureau Chief, and Rachael Kaiman, Assistant Attorney General, West Palm Beach, Florida, for Respondent

          LAWSON, J.

         This case is before the Court for review of the decision of the Fourth District Court of Appeal in Eustache v. State, 199 So.3d 484 (Fla. 4th DCA 2016), which certified the following question to be of great public importance:

WHERE A DEFENDANT IS INITIALLY SENTENCED TO PROBATION OR COMMUNITY CONTROL AS A YOUTHFUL OFFENDER, AND THE TRIAL COURT LATER REVOKES SUPERVISION FOR A SUBSTANTIVE VIOLATION AND IMPOSES A SENTENCE ABOVE THE YOUTHFUL OFFENDER CAP UNDER SECTIONS 958.14 AND 948.06(2), FLORIDA STATUTES, IS THE COURT REQUIRED TO IMPOSE A MINIMUM MANDATORY SENTENCE THAT WOULD HAVE ORIGINALLY APPLIED TO THE OFFENSE?

Eustache, 199 So.3d at 490. We answer the certified question in the affirmative. The Fourth District also certified conflict with Christian v. State, 84 So.3d 437 (Fla. 5th DCA 2012), on the same issue. We disapprove Christian to the extent it holds that a minimum mandatory sentence cannot be imposed on a defendant who substantively violates youthful offender supervision.

         For the reasons that follow, we hold that upon revocation of a youthful offender's probation for a substantive violation, the trial court is authorized to either impose another youthful offender sentence, with no minimum mandatory, or to impose an adult Criminal Punishment Code (CPC)[1] sentence, which would require imposition of any minimum mandatory term of incarceration associated with the offense of conviction. Because the trial judge in this case was convinced by the parties that he lacked the discretion to reimpose a youthful offender sentence, Eustache is entitled to a new sentencing proceeding. Because the Fourth District affirmed the sentence, we quash the decision below and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

         We have jurisdiction. See art. V, § 3(b)(3), (4), Fla. Const.

         BACKGROUND

         Eighteen-year-old Robin Eustache entered a guilty plea to robbery with a firearm, which carries a ten-year minimum mandatory sentence. Eustache, 199 So.3d at 486. The trial court, however, sentenced him as a youthful offender under the Florida Youthful Offender Act (Act) to four years in prison and two years of probation. Id. The Act, codified at sections 958.011-958.15, Florida Statutes (2005), provides an alternate sentencing scheme for use by judges when sentencing defendants between the ages of eighteen and twenty-one. Youthful offender sentencing is discretionary, but if the trial judge elects to impose a youthful offender sentence, minimum mandatory terms otherwise associated with the offense of conviction do not apply, and the sentence is capped at six years or the maximum sentence for the crime(s), whichever is least. § 958.04(1)-(2), Fla. Stat. (2005).[2] Defendants sentenced under the Act are classified as "youthful offenders" and provided with multiple benefits, including placement in institutions separate from the adult prison population, special rehabilitation programs, and the possibility of early release upon recommendation by the Department of Corrections. §§ 958.03(5), 958.04(2)(d), Fla. Stat.

         After serving the prison portion of his sentence, Eustache violated his probation by committing two new drug offenses, and entered a plea admitting the violation. Eustache, 199 So.3d at 486. The trial court found Eustache guilty of the probation violation, revoked his probation, and sentenced him on the underlying offense of robbery with a firearm to fifteen years in prison with a ten-year minimum mandatory sentence. Id. Eustache did not file a direct appeal.

          Eustache filed a motion for postconviction relief pursuant to Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.850, arguing that his counsel at sentencing was ineffective for not advising him that he was subject to the minimum mandatory sentence. Id. After the trial court agreed and granted the motion, Eustache withdrew his initial plea and entered an open plea to the violation of probation. Id. Both parties advised the trial court at sentencing that if it chose to revoke Eustache's probation, it was required to impose at least the ten-year minimum mandatory sentence and had no ability to avoid the minimum mandatory even by imposing another sentence within the cap, which the trial judge accepted as true. Id. at 486, 490. The trial court revoked Eustache's probation and sentenced him to fifteen years in prison, applying the ten-year minimum mandatory sentence. Id. at 486.

         Eustache then filed a second rule 3.850 motion, arguing that his sentence is illegal either because the trial court wrongly believed it was required to impose the minimum mandatory sentence or because the trial court should not have imposed the minimum mandatory sentence at all. Id. The State's response contended that once the trial court exercised its discretion to revoke probation and impose a sentence above the youthful offender cap, it was required to impose the minimum mandatory sentence enhancement. Id. After the trial court summarily denied the motion, adopting the State's reasoning, Eustache appealed to the Fourth District. Id.

          On appeal, the Fourth District affirmed Eustache's fifteen-year sentence and application of the adult minimum mandatory sentence enhancement, holding that under the Act, a trial court, after revoking youthful offender supervision and choosing not to impose a sentence within the youthful offender cap for a substantive violator's underlying offense, must impose any minimum mandatory sentence required for adult offenders charged with the same offense. Id. at 489-90. In so holding, the district court relied on the Second District's decision in Yegge v. State, 186 So.3d 553, 556-57 (Fla. 2d DCA 2015) (upholding application of minimum mandatory sentence enhancements to a youthful offender's sentence following a substantive probation violation), as well as its own decision in Goldwire v. State, 73 So.3d 844, 846 (Fla. 4th DCA 2011) (holding that it is within the court's discretion to revoke youthful offender status and apply minimum mandatory sentence enhancements). Id. The district court receded from its statement in Blacker v. State, 49 So.3d 785, 789 (Fla. 4th DCA 2010), that minimum mandatory penalties cannot be imposed even after a youthful offender substantively violates supervision, certified direct conflict with Christian to the extent it agreed with Blacker, and certified the question as one of great public importance. Id. at 490.

         ANALYSIS

         This case concerns interpretation of the Youthful Offender Act. Questions of statutory interpretation are reviewed de novo. See Borden v. East-European Ins. Co., 921 So.2d 587, 591 (Fla. 2006). "When the language of the statute is clear and unambiguous and conveys a clear and definite meaning, . . . the statute must be given its plain and obvious meaning." Holly v. Auld, 450 So.2d 217, 219 (Fla. 1984) (quoting A.R. Douglass, Inc. v. McRainey, 137 So. 157, 159 (Fla. 1931)).

         The sentencing of a youthful offender upon revocation of probation or community control is governed by sections 958.14 and 948.06, Florida Statutes (2005). In section 958.14, part of the Act, the Legislature provides that a youthful offender who violates probation or community control is to be sentenced under section 948.06, a separate provision of general law applicable to adult CPC sentences. The Act then distinguishes between substantive violations and technical or nonsubstantive violations. As explained in Christian, Florida courts have consistently ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.