When there are discrepancies in court procedure, legal representation or sentencing, defendants have the right to file an appeal or a motion to correct the errors. During the original trial, Public Defenders and private attorneys are appointed by the court to represent indigent defendants. However, once convicted and placed into the hands of the Florida Department of Corrections, the financially challenged inmate only has at his disposal the services of the prison law clerk, a fellow inmate who is assigned to the law library at the correctional institution. Many of the law clerks have a passion to help but they are not professional or experienced attorneys, and more often than not, the inmate’s motions are denied by the court. If the inmate dares to submit subsequent motions, the court will advise that he/she cease and desist, even if the information contained therein is legitimate and would set the inmate free. And if the court’s warning is ignored and the inmate dare submit an new motion, he/she may actually be disciplined by the institution and placed in confinement. Therefore, many inmates just give up their quest to correct their excessive and illegal sentences. They are forced to surrender any hope of receiving justice or going home.
Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure 3.800(a) addresses the Correction, Reduction and Modification of Sentences by the court if erroneously calculated or illegal. 3.800(b) provides for a correction of any sentencing error including an illegal sentence. The first requires a motion by the court, the second requires a motion by the convict. We want our courts to consider the content of a motion based on its legal validity instead of the legality of its vernacular, keeping in mind that the indigent inmate’s legal representation is greatly compromised. Then those who should be home can finally go home.