Sequential Convictions As Basis for Enhanced Sentencing for Habitual Criminals

In Joyner v. State, 158 Fla. 806, 30 So. 2d 304 (1947), the Court discussed the reasons for requiring sequential convictions as the basis for enhanced sentencing. The Court said: There are two reasons why this is true: (1) because the purpose of the statute is to protect society from habitual criminals who persist in the commission of crime after having been theretofore convicted and punished for crimes previously committed. It is contemplated that an opportunity for reformation is to be given after each conviction. (2) This construction is implicit in the statutes. 775.09-.11, Fla. Stat. (1941). Joyner, 30 So. 2d at 306. In State v. Barnes, 595 So. 2d 22, 24 (Fla. 1992), the Court cited the decision in Joyner and further stated: This reasoning, in justifying the imposition of the habitual offender statute, is based on the philosophy that an individual who has been convicted of one offense and who, with knowledge of that conviction, subsequently commits another offense, has rejected his or her opportunity to reform and should be sentenced as a habitual offender. At the time of our Barnes decision, however, the Supreme Court of Florida held that the Legislature had effectively repealed the sequential conviction rule because the then current version of the statute, which had recently been significantly amended in 1988, did not contain the sequential conviction requirement. While the Court in Barnes agreed that "the underlying philosophy of a habitual offender statute may be better served by a sequential conviction requirement," it held that "under these circumstances, this Court has no authority to change the plain meaning of a statute where the legislature has unambiguously expressed its intent." Barnes, 595 So. 2d at 24.