Michael D. Spear v. State of Florida

– Summary by Anna Lusk

            On June 16, 2022, the Supreme Court of Florida considered whether a trial court may, on its own accord, correct sentencing documents that overreport the amount of jail time a defendant served before sentencing / resentencing. The Florida Supreme Court answered that a trial court may, on its own accord, correct these sentencing documents under certain conditions.

            This case originated out of the following circumstances. Michael Spear was convicted of three felony counts of forgery and three felony counts of uttering a forged instrument, for which he was sentenced to community control followed by a drug offender probation. Mr. Spear then committed two new law violations for which he was sentenced separately. Mr. Spear reached a plea agreement with the Court, under the condition that Mr. Spear would face statutory maximum sentences for his offenses if he failed to appear at sentencing. Mr. Spear failed to appear at sentencing. Mr. Spear was then given the maximum sentences for his offenses. Mr. Spear was granted jail credit for time he had already spent in jail. Mr. Spear appealed his sentences to the Appellate Court, which reversed his sentences and demanded an evidentiary hearing to determine whether Mr. Spear had willfully failed to appear to his sentencing hearing. The lower court ruled that Mr. Spear did willfully fail to appear. The lower court then resentenced Mr. Spear. This resentencing is the basis for the issue in this case. After the resentencing, the deputy clerk calculated Spear’s jail sentences along with his prison credit. The clerk erroneously calculated the time served by the defendant. Two months later, the Florida Department of Corrections notified the court that there were possible errors in the credit served awarded to Mr. Spear. Before the trial court could address the errors, the district court affirmed Mr. Spear’s sentences. The trial court then, on its own accord, ordered that the judgments and sentences be amended.

            The Florida Supreme Court then declined to decide on this particular case but determined that it would answer the question at hand. The Court notes that in its decision, it would rely on Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.800(b), which deals with motions to correct sentencing errors. Rule 3.800(b) limits the time during which a motion to correct a sentencing error may be filed. The case at hand does not fit within this limit. Thus, the corrections made in Mr. Spear’s sentencing documents, which were made after Mr. Spear’s appeal, were untimely and cannot stand. The Court concluded that subject to the requirements of Rule 3.800(b), a trial court has the inherent authority to correct sentencing documents that overreport the amount of jail time served by a defendant prior to sentencing, or the amount of jail time and prison time served by a defendant prior to resentencing.

            Concurring with this opinion, Judge Grosshans noted that she agrees with the result of this case, but that she would have refrained from determining whether a rule of criminal procedure, which is not applicable to the facts of this case, defined the scope of the court’s inherent authority.