John Koeppel

On October 16, the Court issued a ruling in a controversial case involving a notorious former school teacher who was charged with two counts of lewd or lascivious battery under section 800.04(4)(a), Fla. Stat. (2003), for committing sexual battery on a fourteen-year-old middle school boy. The ruling reversed a decision by the Second District Court of Appeal in State v. LaFave, 113 So. 3d 31 (Fla. 2d DCA 2012), which reinstated the teacher’s probation after finding an abuse of discretion by the circuit court. (SC12-2232).

The central issue for review was whether, in the absence of a statutory right to appeal, the State may seek certiorari review of an order terminating probation if it can show that the circuit court departed from the essential requirements of the law by violating the plea agreement between the state and the defendant which called for no early termination. The Florida Supreme Court answered the question in the negative, quashing the decision of the Second District to reinstate her probation pursuant to her negotiated plea agreement.

At the hearing on LaFave’s Motion to Terminate Probation, LaFave argued that section 948.05, Fla. Stat. (2011), grants the trial court inherent jurisdiction to hear the motion and to reward defendants based on their successful completion, or substantial completion, of such strict probationary and community control terms, regardless of what the parties may have agreed to. The State argued that the trial court did not have jurisdiction to hear the motion, in light of the “no early termination” provision. The State further argued that even if the court had jurisdiction, the motion should be dismissed on the merits. The trial court granted LaFave’s motion, and the State petitioned for common law writ of certiorari with the Second District, which was granted.

The Second District acknowledged that the State had no right of appeal in this case, as section 924.07(1), Fla. Stat. (2011), and its procedural counterpart, Fla. R. App. P. 9.140(c), set forth the limited circumstances in which the State has such a right. LaFave, 113 So. 3d at 34. The Second District, however, observed that the trial court’s order “does not fall into the category of ‘final orders of dismissal’ that are not subject to certiorari review.” Id. at 36-37.

The Florida Supreme Court disagreed, and followed long-standing Florida jurisprudence supporting the conclusion that the State may only use a writ of certiorari to review a non-final order, or to review a final order of a circuit court acting in its review capacity. The Court found unpersuasive the Second District’s distinction between a “final” order and the order in this case, which it classified as a “rare, postsentencing order.” LaFave, 113 So. 3d at 37. The Court instead followed the general test of finality laid out in S.L.T. Warehouse Co. v. Webb, 304 So. 2d 97, 99 (Fla. 1974), which is “whether the order in question constitutes an end to the judicial labor in the cause, and nothing further remains to be done by the court to effectuate a termination of the cause as between the parties directly affected.”

Although expressly recognizing the perceived inequality that the Second District sought to remedy, the Florida Supreme Court found that the district court lacked jurisdiction to grant the State’s petition, and noted that although the Second District’s order terminating LaFave’s probation may be classified as a “rare, postsentencing order,” it was a final order nonetheless.

State is Generally not Entitled to Judicial Review of Orders Terminating Probation

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *