Williams v. State, SC05-2163.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Florida
Citation957 So.2d 600
Docket NumberNo. SC05-2163.,SC05-2163.
PartiesDaryl WILLIAMS, Petitioner, v. STATE of Florida, Respondent.
Decision Date17 May 2007
957 So.2d 600
Daryl WILLIAMS, Petitioner,
STATE of Florida, Respondent.
No. SC05-2163.
Supreme Court of Florida.
May 17, 2007.

Beverly A. Pohl of Broad and Cassel of Fort Lauderdale, FL, and Cynthia Morales

[957 So.2d 601]

of Broad and Cassel of Miami, FL, for Petitioner.

Bill McCollum, Attorney General, Tallahassee, FL, Celia Terenzio, Bureau Chief, and Jeanine M. Germanowicz, Assistant Attorney General, West Palm Beach, FL, for Respondent.


We have on appeal a decision of a district court of appeal that certifies conflict with decisions of the First, Second, and Fifth District Courts of Appeal. Williams v. State, 913 So.2d 1239 (Fla. 4th DCA 2005). We have jurisdiction. See art. V, § 3(b)(4), Fla. Const. For the reasons set out below, we quash the decision of the Fourth District Court of Appeal and hold that a claim asserting a discrepancy between an oral and written sentence is cognizable in a rule 3.800(a) proceeding for correction of an illegal sentence.


Daryl Williams pleaded guilty to burglary of a dwelling and was sentenced on December 21, 1999. On February 4, 2005, Williams filed a motion for correction of an illegal sentence under Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.800(a), alleging that the sentence that was pronounced orally was "eleven years straight up," but that his written sentence reflected a longer term of 175 months (fourteen years, seven months). The trial court denied Williams' motion as legally insufficient. The trial court noted that the court clerk's minutes from the sentencing in the record demonstrated that the oral pronouncement was the same as the written sentence and attached both to its order denying relief, but did not attach a transcript of the sentencing proceedings.

On appeal, the Fourth District Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's denial of Williams' motion and certified conflict with Fitzpatrick v. State, 863 So.2d 462 (Fla. 1st DCA 2004), and Berthiaume v. State, 864 So.2d 1257 (Fla. 5th DCA 2004). Williams, 913 So.2d at 1239. The district court further concluded that "a mere allegation of a difference between the oral pronouncement and the written judgment is insufficient to comply with [rule 3.800(a)]" and certified conflict with Watts v. State, 790 So.2d 1175 (Fla. 2d DCA 2001), on that issue. Williams, 913 So.2d at 1240.


Williams sought review here based upon the district court's certification that its decision expressly conflicted with decisions of other district courts. During proceedings for review before this Court, Williams obtained a copy of the transcript of the hearing, which reflects that the oral pronouncement of sentence did not conflict with the written judgment and sentence. Williams concedes his claim is now moot but advocates our retention of jurisdiction because of the continuing existence of express and direct conflict among the district courts. Upon reflection, we have determined to retain jurisdiction in the instant action to address the conflict in decisions certified by the district court and resolve the uncertainty with regard to the utilization of rule 3.800(a) to resolve discrepancies between written sentences and oral pronouncements. See State v. Matthews, 891 So.2d 479, 483-84 (Fla.2004). "The mootness doctrine does not destroy our jurisdiction because the question before this Court is of great public importance and is likely to recur." Id. at 483 (citing Holly v. Auld, 450 So.2d 217, 218 n. 1 (Fla.1984)).


Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.800(a) provides:

957 So.2d 602

(a) Correction. A court may at any time correct an illegal sentence imposed by it, or an incorrect calculation made by it in a sentencing scoresheet, or a sentence that does not grant proper credit for time served when it is affirmatively alleged that the court records demonstrate on their face an entitlement to that relief, provided that a party may not file a motion to correct an illegal sentence under this subdivision during the time allowed for the filing of a motion under subdivision (b)(1) or during the pendency of a direct appeal.

Fla. R.Crim. P. 3.800(a). We have explained that this procedural rule allows for petition to the courts to correct sentencing errors that may be identified on the face of the record and, because such errors may be resolved as a matter of law, do not require contested evidentiary hearings. See Renaud v. State, 926 So.2d 1241 (Fla. 2006); State v. Mancino, 714 So.2d 429 (Fla.1998); Hopping v. State, 708 So.2d 263 (Fla.1998); State v. Callaway, 658 So.2d 983, 988 (Fla.1995).

We have generally defined an "illegal sentence" as one that imposes a punishment or penalty that no judge under the entire body of sentencing statutes and laws could impose under any set of factual circumstances. Carter v. State, 786 So.2d 1173, 1181 (Fla.2001). The First, Second, Third, and Fifth Districts have interpreted this to include an otherwise legal sentence set out in a written judgment and sentence that does not comport with the sentence orally pronounced in open court; these courts have authorized correction of this type of error in a rule 3.800(a) postconviction proceeding. See Hood v. State, 851 So.2d 829 (Fla. 1st DCA 2003); Greene v. State, 853 So.2d 1114 (Fla. 1st DCA 2003); Cote v. State, 841 So.2d 488 (Fla. 2d DCA 2003), quashed, 913 So.2d 544 (Fla.2005); Fitzpatrick, 863 So.2d at 463; Watts, 790 So.2d at 1176; Dobarganes v. State, 930 So.2d 765 (Fla. 3d DCA 2006); Berthiaume, 864 So.2d at 1258. These courts have also held that a trial court cannot summarily deny a movant's motion to correct a sentence under rule 3.800(a) without attaching the portion of the record that refutes the movant's assertion. See Melton v. State, 908 So.2d 1136, 1136-37 (Fla. 3d DCA 2005); Berthiaume, 864 So.2d at 1258; Fitzpatrick, 863 So.2d at 463; Watts, 790 So.2d at 1176. Only the Fourth District holds that such a claim in not cognizable under a rule 3.800(a) motion. See Williams, 913 So.2d at 1239-40.

In Fitzpatrick, the First District found that since no portion of the sentencing transcript had been attached to the order denying the movant's motion, or otherwise provided in the record on appeal, the order had to be reversed and remanded...

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