Trial Court Can Enlarge the Time for Ruling When It Is Unable to Rule Upon a Timely Filed Motion to Mitigate Within the Sixty-Day Window
In Childers v. State, 972 So. 2d 307 (Fla. 2d DCA 2008) the defendant was convicted of robbery and sentenced to thirty years in prison as a habitual violent felony offender with a ten-year mandatory minimum term. Id. at 308.
After his conviction and sentence were affirmed on appeal, Childers filed a timely rule 3.800(c) motion to reduce his sentence. Id.
He also filed a motion for enlargement of time, pursuant to Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.050.
Three months later, the circuit court denied the motion for enlargement of time and dismissed the motion for modification of sentence because the time had already expired at that point. Id.
Childers filed a petition for writ of certiorari.
The Second District granted the petition, holding that although rule 3.800(c) provides for a strict time limit that requires a trial court to rule on such a motion within the sixty-day window, the court may extend the time for ruling on such motions.
In reaching this holding, the Second District explicitly rejected the State's argument that Childers bore responsibility for the court's failure to timely rule on the motion because Childers did not set the motion for a hearing and certified conflict with the Fourth District cases that placed the responsibility on the defendant. Id. at 309.
As the court noted, nothing within rule 3.800(c) or the rules of criminal procedure requires a hearing.
Moreover, the Second District noted that trial courts routinely rule on this type of motion without holding a hearing. Id.
Although the defendant in Childers filed a motion for enlargement of time, other Second District opinions have specifically recognized that the trial court has an obligation to sua sponte extend the time for considering a motion to mitigate when the motion is timely filed within the sixty days.
For example, in Cunniff v. State, 950 So. 2d 1255, 1257 (Fla. 2d DCA 2007), where a pro se defendant timely filed a rule 3.800(c) motion, the Second District held that the "trial court should have either considered the motion on its merits or extended the time for considering the motion."
The Second District's precedent on this issue is long-established. See Moya v. State, 668 So. 2d 279, 280 (Fla. 2d DCA 1996) (holding that pursuant to this Court's decision in Abreu and rule 3.050, the trial court can and should sua sponte enlarge the time for ruling on such a motion when the court is unable to rule upon a timely filed motion to mitigate within the allotted sixty-day window).