Factors That Influence Sentencing in Florida

The Florida Sentencing Guidelines set minimum and maximum sentences for various criminal offenses. In Florida, as in many other states, however, sentencing depends on a hybrid system that involves the objective sentencing guidelines, the discretion of a judge, and a criminal punishment scoresheet that can have an enhancing or mitigatory effect on the sentence.

How the Scoresheet System Works

The criminal punishment scoresheet supports Florida sentencing, and the twin discretionary and objective sentencing system is built into the scoresheet.

How does it work?  Let’s take a brief look.  Don’t worry — it’s actually rather simple to understand!

In short: the scoresheet applies to you in total, as a defendant, for all the offenses you were convicted of.  You earn points on the scoresheet depending on different factors, including the severity of the offense, among numerous other things, such as the actual injury caused to the victim(s), whether you fled the crime scene, your criminal record, and more.

If your final points total is equal to or greater than 45 points, then you will be given a prison sentence.  This prison sentence will be calculated based on a formula that takes your scoresheet points into consideration.  Of course, certain crimes carry mandatory minimum sentences and maximum sentences, in which case, the formula does not apply in a straightforward manner.

If your final points total comes in at less than 45 points, then — assuming that none of your crimes carry with them a mandatory minimum sentence — you will be subject to the discretionary sentence decided upon by the judge.  The judge may choose to sentence you to probation, imprisonment (in a jail or prison), or some unique combination of the two.

Scoresheet Point Factors

Your scoresheet points total is affected by a number of factors, including, but not necessarily limited, to:

  • The primary offense and of the secondary offenses — for example, a primary offense drug trafficking charge will lead to more points on the scoresheet than a secondary offense assault charge.
  • The severity of the victim’s injury — if you were convicted of battery, then the fact that the victim’s injuries fully healed and have no long-term repercussions would lead to reduced points than if the victim were to suffer lifelong consequences.
  • Prior criminal record — if you have an extensive, consistent criminal record, this can lead to significant point additions.
  • Violating a previous public legal arrangement, such as probation or court supervision, at the time that the crime was committed.
  • Whether you were equipped with weapons (i.e., guns, knives, explosives, etc.) at the time that the crime was committed.

Occasionally, with a skilled criminal defense attorney at your side, the judge may decide to depart from the sentencing guidelines even if you have already reached the 45-point total necessary to apply a minimum sentence.  This court discretion is only used in the event that you can show one or more of the following:

  • Clear and demonstrated remorse for the crimes committed.
  • Mental health issues.
  • A plea bargain was entered into with the prosecution.
  • The commission of such crimes was an isolated incident given the lack of any other significant criminal history.
  • You were not a “primary mover” in the commission of such crimes, and had a relatively minor influence on what occurred.

If you have been charged with a crime, call (941) 900-3100 to set up a free consultation with one of the experienced Sarasota criminal defense attorneys at the Fowler Law Group today.  The Fowler Law Group has a track record of success in helping secure favorable results for criminal defendants throughout the state of Florida.

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