The State of Florida separates crimes into two major categories based on the severity level and seriousness. Crimes are either misdemeanors or felonies. Misdemeanors are less severe crimes and felonies are the higher level of crimes. Both felonies and misdemeanors have different levels within these categories based on the seriousness of crime.
Criminal Punishment System
In Florida, every felony crime and its sentence is regulated by the Florida Criminal Punishment Code (CPC) which has been prepared by the Department of Corrections and Office of the State Courts Administrator Florida. The CPC requires preparation of a criminal code scoresheet for each felony offender before he or she is sentenced by the court. The scoresheet is prepared by the prosecutor and provided to the defense attorney for review of accuracy.
Levels of felonies
The CPC assigns every felony charge with an offense level that ranges between level 1 to level 10 depending upon the seriousness of the offense. Each level is assessed a point value. The points on the scoresheet are added up and a formula calculates the lowest permissible sentence in months (in prison). It is important to note that it is written into the law that the primary purpose of a Florida criminal law sentence is punishment. Rehabilitation is secondary purpose.
Factors Contributing Points in the Scoresheet
The points of the crimes committed are added together by the Court to reach a total number of points. The total number of points determines the sentence.
In addition to the felony offense levels, there are other factors which are considered for the purpose of determining a total score. These include the primary offense, additional offenses, and prior record.
- Primary offense: Refers to an offense for which the conviction is pending before the Court for sentencing.
- Additional offense: Additional offense means any offense other than the primary offense for which an offender is convicted, and which is pending before the court for sentencing at the time of the primary offense.
- Prior record: Prior Record refers to any previous convictions committed by an offender prior to commissioning of the primary offense. Prior Record also includes convictions for offenses committed by an offender either as an adult or as juvenile.
Calculation of the total Points:
To ascertain the level of sentence, the total number of points of the primary offense, additional offenses, prior record, and other factors are separately totaled and then added together to get the ultimate score.
If the total points are less than 44, there is not any requirement for further calculation of points because the person eligible for jail time, probation, or community control.
If the other hand, in the case where the total number of points are 44 or more, then a formula of sentencing is applied for the purpose of calculating the lowest permissible sentence in prison (in months). For such computation, 28 points are subtracted from the total number of points and whatever the result comes, it is multiplied by 0.75 to reach to the minimum permissible sentence in prison (in months). However, wherever the minimum permissible sentence is less than the mandatory minimum sentence, the mandatory minimum sentence takes precedence and the accused is sentenced to the same regardless of the minimum permissible sentence that has been computed by the scoresheet.
My score is higher than 44 points, what does that mean?
If your score is more than 44 points, the judge will be required to sentence you to state prison unless he or she makes a legal exception called a downward departure.
Downward Departure Sentence in Florida
Under Florida law, a person convicted of a felony must be sentenced pursuant to the Florida Criminal Punishment Code (CPC). If a person scores prison under the Criminal Punishment Code, a judge must sentence the person to prison unless the court finds valid grounds for 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 to must determine whether it should impose a downward departure sentence.
What are Mitigating Factors?
Florida Statute §921.0026(2) provides a list of mitigating circumstances under which a downward departure sentence is justified. These mitigating circumstances are as follows:
- The departure results from a legitimate, uncoerced plea bargain.
- The defendant was an accomplice to the offense and was a relatively minor participant in the criminal conduct.
- 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.
- 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.
- The need for payment of restitution to the victim outweighs the need for a prison sentence.
- The victim was an initiator, willing participant, aggressor, or provoker of the incident.
- The defendant acted under extreme duress or under the domination of another person.
- Before the identity of the defendant was determined, the victim was substantially compensated.
- The defendant cooperated with the state to resolve the current offense or any other offense.
- The offense was committed in an unsophisticated manner and was an isolated incident for which the defendant has shown remorse.
- At the time of the offense the defendant was too young to appreciate the consequences of the offense.
- The defendant is to be sentenced as a youthful offender.
- The defendant's offense is a nonviolent felony, the defendant's Criminal Punishment Code scoresheet total sentence points under Florida Statute §921.0024 are 60 points or fewer, and the court determines that the defendant is amenable to the services of a post-adjudicatory treatment-based drug court program and is otherwise qualified to participate in the program as part of the sentence.
- The defendant was making a good faith effort to obtain or provide medical assistance for an individual experiencing a drug-related overdose.
Contact an experienced attorney
The Florida criminal punishment code is complex, but hopefully, this post has explained the basics. If you have additional questions, please contact me. I am available anytime, day or night, to help you with your criminal case.