Sentencing in Florida

Crime Levels and Maximum Punishments

If you are charged with a crime in Florida, it will be categorized as follows:

• If the authorities charge you with a 1st degree Capitol Felony, and you are convicted, you must be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
• If you are charged with a 1st degree felony, and you are convicted, you can be sentenced to up to 30 years in prison.
• If the authorities charge you with a 2nd degree felony, and you are convicted, you can be sentenced to up to 15 years in prison.
• If the authorities charge you with a 3rd degree felony, and you are convicted, you can be sentenced to up to 5 years in prison.
• If the authorities charge you with a 1st degree misdemeanor, and you are convicted, you can be sentenced up to 1 year in the county jail.
• If the authorities charge you with a 2nd degree misdemeanor, and you are convicted, you can be sentenced up to 60 days in the county jail.

Florida Sentencing Guidelines or Score Sheets

The Florida Sentencing Guidelines or Florida Score Sheet is a document prepared in all felony cases by the State Attorney and is used to establish benchmarks for a judge to sentence a defendant after a conviction.

The reasons behind the Sentencing Guidelines are as follows:

• To provide for a uniform set of standards to guide the sentencing court in sentencing decisions.
• To evaluate relevant factors present at sentencing relating to the offense or offenses and the defendant’s prior criminal behavior.

The Sentencing Guidelines uses points to calculate whether a person must be sent to prison or not. Points are assigned for charged crimes, victim injuries, and prior record. The total number of points determines whether a sentencing judge has the discretion to impose a sentence that does not include jail or prison time.

• If the total points are equal to or less than 44, a judge has the discretion to enter any sentence up to the statutory maximum. This may or may not include jail, prison, or any type of probation.
• If the total points exceed 44, the minimum sentence is established by taking the total point value subtracting 28 and decreasing the remaining value by 25%. This end result value is the lowest permissible prison sentence in months. Thus, a judge does not have the discretion to go below the assigned prison sentence but may still impose more prison or probation up to the statutory maximum.

This means than only those defendants scoring 44 points or less may receive a non-state prison sentence under the guidelines. All others must receive a state prison sentence, unless the judge agrees to a downward departure.

Downward Departure Sentence in Florida

Under Florida law, a person convicted of a felony must be sentenced using the Florida Sentencing Guidelines. The only way a judge can go below a minimum guideline sentence is to impose a downward departure.

The decision to depart from the minimum sentence mandated by the Criminal Punishment Code is a two part process.

• First, the court must decide whether there is evidence of mitigating circumstances that would support a downward departure sentence.
• Second, the court must determine whether it should impose a downward departure sentence.

Importantly, imposing a downward departure sentence is entirely up to a judge. Meaning that even if a judge finds evidence supporting a downward departure, the judge is not required to impose a downward departure sentence.

Reasons for Departures – Mitigating Factors

The following is a list of mitigating circumstances under which a downward departure sentence is justified:
1. The departure results from a legitimate uncoerced plea bargain.
2. The defendant was an accomplice to the offense and was a relatively minor participant in the criminal conduct.
3. The capacity of the defendant to appreciate the criminal nature of the conduct or to conform that conduct to the requirements of law was substantially impaired.
4. The defendant requires specialized treatment for a mental disorder that is unrelated to substance abuse or addiction or for a physical disability, and the defendant is amenable to treatment.
5. The need for payment of restitution to the victim outweighs the need for a prison sentence.
6. The victim was an initiator, willing participant, aggressor, or provoker of the incident.
7. The defendant acted under extreme duress or under the domination of another person.
8. Before the identity of the defendant was determined, the victim was substantially compensated.
9. The defendant cooperated with the state to resolve the current offense or any other offense.
10. The offense was committed in an unsophisticated manner and was an isolated incident for which the defendant has shown remorse.
11. At the time of the offense the defendant was too young to appreciate the consequences of the offense.
12. The defendant is to be sentenced as a youthful offender.

Sentencing Enhancements

Under Florida Law, You may also be designated with a sentencing enhancement. These enhancements are for people that have multiple felony convictions. The following are Florida’s sentencing enhancement designations:

Habitual Felony Offender

The Habitual Felony Offender law applies to people with multiple felony convictions. It enhances the penalties for serious felonies and makes the penalties for a crime more severe.

In order to meet the qualifications to be classified as a Habitual Felony Offender you must:

• Have been previously been convicted of two or more felonies in this state or any other state.
• The current offense must have been committed while the offender was in prison for a prior conviction, or within five years of the date of the last prior felony, or within five years of release from prison.
• The current offense is not the purchase or possession of a controlled substance.

Sentencing Consequences:

If you are designated as a Habitual Felony Offender, you are subject to the following sentences:

• A felony punishable by life is enhanced to a discretionary life sentence.
• A 1st degree felony is enhanced to a discretionary sentence up to life in prison.
• A 2nd degree felony is enhanced to a discretionary sentence up to 30 years in prison.
• A 3rd degree felony is enhanced to a discretionary sentence up to 10 years in prison.

If you are convicted as a Habitual Felony Offender, you are still eligible to receive any from of early release the Department of Corrections applies to your sentence.

Habitual Violent Felony Offender

The Habitual Violent Felony Offender law applies to people with multiple violent felony convictions. It enhances the penalties for serious felonies and makes the penalties for a crime more severe.

In order to meet the qualifications to be classified as a Habitual Violent Felony Offender you must:

• Have a previous, separate conviction (not pardoned or set aside), for a felony, attempted felony, or conspiracy to commit a felony and one or more of these convictions were for either:

a. Aggravated Abuse of the Elderly or Disabled
b. Aggravated Assault
c. Aggravated Child Abuse
d. Aggravated Manslaughter of the Elderly or Disabled
e. Aggravated Manslaughter of a Child
f. Aggravated Battery
g. Aggravated Stalking
h. Armed Burglary
i. Arson
j. Kidnapping
k. Murder
l. Manslaughter
m. Robbery
n. Sexual Battery
o. Throwing, Placing, or Discharging, a Destructive Device

• The current offense must be an enumerated offense and committed while serving a sentence for a conviction of an offense listed above or within five years of the date of conviction or release for an offense listed above.

Sentencing Consequences:

If you are designated as a Habitual Violent Felony Offender, you are subject to the following sentences:

• A felony punishable by life is enhanced to a discretionary life sentence.
• A 1st degree felony is enhanced to a discretionary sentence up to life in prison.
• A 2nd degree felony is enhanced to a discretionary sentence up to 30 years in prison.
• A 3rd degree felony is enhanced to a discretionary sentence up to 10 years in prison.

If you are convicted as a Habitual Felony Offender, you are still eligible to receive any from of early release the Department of Corrections applies to your sentence but must served at least 10 years in prison.

Violent Career Criminal

The Violent Career Criminal law applies to people with multiple violent felony convictions. It enhances the penalties for serious felonies and makes the penalties for a crime more severe.

In order to meet the qualifications to be classified as a Violent Career Criminal you must:

• Have three or more previous, separate adult conviction (not pardoned/set aside) for an offense or other qualified offense that is:
p. Aggravated Abuse of the Elderly or Disabled
q. Aggravated Stalking
r. Escape
s. Felony use of possession of a Firearm
t. Forcible Felony
u. Lewd and Lascivious Conduct

• Have been in prison and the Felony to be sentenced is an offense listed above AND committed while serving a sentence for conviction of the offense listed above OR within 5 years of the date of conviction or release for an offense listed above.

IF you are designated a Violent Career Criminal, you are subject to the following sentences:

• A felony punishable by life is enhanced to a discretionary life sentence.
• A 1st degree felony is enhanced to a discretionary sentence up to life in prison.
• A 2nd degree felony is enhanced to a discretionary sentence up to 40 years in prison.
• A 3rd degree felony is enhanced to a discretionary sentence up to 15 years in prison.

If you are convicted as a Violent Career Criminal, you are still eligible to receive any from of early release the Department of Corrections applies to your sentence but must served at least 10 years in prison.

Florida Prison Releasee Reoffender

The Prison Releasee Reoffender law applies to people recently released from prison. It enhances the penalties for serious felonies and makes the penalties for a crime more severe. The statute also imposes minimum mandatory sentences, which means early release from prison after a conviction is not allowed.

In order to meet the qualifications to be classified as a Prison Releasee Reoffender you must:

• Be charged with committing or attempting to commit:
a. Treason
b. Murder
c. Manslaughter
d. Sexual battery
e. Carjacking
f. Home-invasion robbery
g. Robbery
h. Arson
i. Kidnapping
j. Aggravated assault w/deadly weapon
k. Aggravated battery
l. Aggravated stalking
m. Aircraft piracy
n. Unlawful throw/place/discharge of a destructive device or bomb
o. Any felony involving use or threat of physical force or violence against an individual
p. Armed burglary
q. Burglary of an occupied structure or dwelling
r. Any felony violation of § 790.07, § 800.04, § 827.03, or § 827.071

• The new charge must be within 3 years of your release from a state correctional facility or filed when you were on escape status

Sentencing Consequence:

If you are designated as a Prison Releasee Reoffender, you are subject to the following sentences:

• A felony punishable by life is enhanced to a mandatory life sentence.
• A 1st degree felony is enhanced to a mandatory 30 years of imprisonment.
• A 2nd degree felony is enhanced to mandatory 15 years of imprisonment.
• A 3rd degree felony is enhanced to mandatory 5 years of imprisonment.

If you are convicted as a Prison Releasee Reoffender, you may only be released after serving every day of your full sentence. You are not eligible for parole or any form of early release.