Trial court sentencing decisions in Tennessee criminal cases are presumed on appeal to be reasonable when the sentence is within the range of options provided by the applicable sentencing statutes for the crime at issue. Within a range of possible sentences defined by statute for a particular crime, criminal trial courts have discretion to select the sentence the trial court believes is most appropriate for the circumstances of the particular case. In the recent case of State v. Breeze, W2013-00798-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn.Crim.App. 10-21-2013), the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals upheld the trial court's decision to impose a total effective sentence of thirty-two years for a person convicted of rape of a child and rape of his two stepdaughters.
As the Defendant in the Breeze case was a standard offender with no prior felony convictions, the trial court had the option of selecting a prison sentence from fifteen to twenty-five years for the rape of a child offense and eight to twelve years for the rape offense. The trial court also had the option of ordering those sentences to run at the same time or one after the other. The trial court ultimately elected to impose a sentence of twenty-two years in the rape of a child case and ten years in the rape case and elected to order those sentences to run consecutively for a total effective sentence of thirty-two years in prison.
On appeal, the defense argued that the trial court erroneously considered the long-term impact of the crime on the victims, even though the victims had not gone to counseling. The defense also argued that the trial court had disregarded the character testimony offered by the defense at the sentencing hearing, where a friend of the Defendant testified the Defendant was honest and hardworking and that the friend did not believe the Defendant was guilty of the crimes.
The Court of Criminal Appeals concluded the trial court was within its discretion in making the sentencing decision it made. The judgments were affirmed.
For more information on criminal sentencing, contact Hindman & Associates.