King of the Withhold” APD Austyn Sanders

Great news for those interested in criminal justice reform came down from the Fourth DCA last week, courtesy of Austyn Sanders, Barbara Duffy, and former 17th Circuit drug court honcho Melanie May.

From STATE v. ROODY DHAITI, October 27, 2021, allowing multiple withholds for simple drug possession (and other non-violent charges) for chronic substance abusers:

A little bit of statutory construction and the rule of lenity are at issue in the State’s appeal of the defendant’s sentence. The State argues the trial court erred by withholding adjudication and placing the defendant on drug offender probation, pursuant to section 948.20(1), Florida Statutes (2019), because the defendant had previously received three prior withholds of adjudication. We disagree and affirm.

The State charged the defendant with possession of Alprazolam, a third-degree felony … The defendant pleaded no contest and moved for alternative sentencing under section 948.20, Florida Statutes (2019), the drug offender probation statute

Section 948.20(1) allows the court to withhold adjudication and place a defendant on drug offender probation if “the defendant is a chronic substance abuser whose criminal conduct is a violation of s. 893.13(2)(a)
or (6)(a) [prohibiting the purchase or possession of certain controlled substances], or other nonviolent felony.” § 948.20(1), Fla. Stat. (2019). That statute specifically provides: “the court may also stay and withhold
the imposition of sentence and place the defendant on drug offender probation or into a postadjudicatory treatment-based drug court program if the defendant otherwise qualifies.”

Here too, allowing the trial court to withhold and impose drug offender probation is consistent with strong policy considerations that treatment is the most effective way to rehabilitate a chronic substance abuser like the defendant. Section 948.20’s specific provision covering drug offender probation controls over the general provisions of section 775.08435. And, section 948.20 was enacted after section 775.08435, expressing the latest in legislative intent … (emphasis added)