Florida Sentencing Blog

A discussion of contemporary law, policy, and practice in Florida criminal sentencing.

Casey Anthony’s Sentence: The Talking Heads Don’t Know What They’re Talking About

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Casey Anthony booking photograph (Credit: Orange County Jail)

On July 5, 2011, a jury acquitted Casey Anthony of the murder of her infant daughter Caylee, but convicted Anthony of four misdemeanor counts of making false statements to law enforcement. Anthony had been held in jail since 2008 awaiting trial. Circuit Judge Belvin Perry, who presided over the trial, imposed the maximum sentence he could, four consecutive one-year sentences in the Orange County Jail, with credit for time served, and estimated that her release date would be in late July or early August.  Judge Perry also imposed the maximum fine of $1,000 per count, for a total of $4,000.

Some defense lawyer talking heads took the position that Anthony had already fulfilled more than her maximum sentence and should be released immediately. Timothy Fitzgerald, a defense lawyer in Tampa, Florida solemnly explained to WFLA reporter Natalie Shepherd that “Each day you’re in you get a day of credit for each of the charges.” Tampa defense attorney Jeff Brown went even farther, making outrageous assertions to 970 WFLA’s Matt McClain in a 30 minute interview (since pulled from that station) on July 7th that Casey Anthony is currently out of jail and is a free woman, saying Florida law doesn’t allow for her to continue to be held, that he’s checked with legal experts and even law enforcement members, and that they all believe the judge is protecting Anthony’s safety with a fake release date.

Screenshot of the Newsradio 970 WFLA Facebook page announcing and summarizing the interview with defense attorney Jeff Brown

Respectfully, both Fitzgerald and Brown are completely wrong on the law.  The correct rule is that if convicted of multiple offenses, the defendant must be given credit only on the first of consecutive sentences: When consecutive sentences are imposed, the defendant is not entitled to have his or her jail time pyramided by being given credit on each sentence for the full time he or she spends in jail awaiting disposition.1  In other words, jail time need not be applied to all consecutive sentences,2 and a defendant does not earn concurrent jail credit against consecutive sentences.

In computing Anthony’s jail sentence, the officials in the Inmate Records Section of the Orange County Jail will take the total sentence imposed (365 X 4 = 1,460 days), and then subtract the number of days Anthony has actually been held in custody on the misdemeanor charges, the number of days credit she has earned in that time, and any other applicable discount (e.g., for overcrowding at the jail).  The end result will be that Casey Anthony will be required to serve considerably less than four calendar years in jail.

NOTES:

1 Daniels v. State, 491 So. 2d 543 (Fla. 1986).

2 See, Bell v. State, 573 So. 2d 10 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 5th Dist. 1990); Gillespie v. State, 910 So. 2d 322 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 5th Dist. 2005).

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