FINAL UNTIL TIME EXPIRES TO FILE REHEARING MOTION AND, IF
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)
D. Webster, David L. Luck, and Jorge A. Perez-Santiago of
Carlton Fields Jorden Burt, P.A., Miami, Florida, for
Jo Bondi, Attorney General, Tallahassee, Florida, Celia A.
Terenzio, Bureau Chief, and Rachael Kaiman, Assistant
Attorney General, West Palm Beach, Florida, for Respondent
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
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.
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) 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
jurisdiction. See art. V, § 3(b)(3), (4), Fla.
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). 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.
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.
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.
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
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)).
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 ...