The law regarding sentencing for a criminal conviction will likely (hopefully) remain nothing more than a curiosity for most of us. Nevertheless, it does no harm to understand the workings of a scheme that so profoundly affects the lives of many Floridians.
Until around the middle of the 90s, sentencing was subject to the whims of the court, and the only limitations were the maximum penalties allowed by law. This, as you can imagine, allowed for wildly inconsistent punishments. To provide more consistency, the legislature amended the Criminal Punishment Code in 1998 and introduced what we call the “scoresheet”—a way to calculate a minimum sentence based upon the crime, and past criminal history of the defendant.
The scoresheet only applies to felonies. As a matter of background information, a misdemeanor is a crime punishable by less than one year, and commission to only the county jail. A felony is any crime punishable by more than one year, with commission to prison (the Florida Department of Corrections). There are five types of felonies: (i) Third Degree, punishable up to 5 years, (ii) Second Degree, punishable up to 15 years, (iii) First Degree, punishable up to 30 years, (iv) Life Felony, punishable up to life in prison, and (v) Capital Felony, potentially punishable by death.
Upon sentencing, the court reviews the scoresheet and considers three elements. First, the actual crimes up for sentencing. Second, the individual’s past criminal history. Third, the injury to the victim. Each of these is assigned a different number by the legislature. These three elements are then added together to create a final “score” for purposes of sentencing.
Applying the Scoresheet
Let’s take for example an Aggravated Battery with Great Bodily Harm. This crime is considered a Level 7, at 56 points. If the victim was severely injured, the court would add 18 points. If the defendant has three misdemeanors in his past, add an additional 0.6 points. This would provide us a total score of 74.6.
Once you have the total points, you enter the number into a formula as follows:
__________________minus 28 = _____________ x .75 = ______________________________
(total sentence points) (lowest permissible sentence in months)
In our case: 74.6 – 28 = 46.6 x .75 = 34.95. In other words, a defendant with this conviction, injury to the victim, and past criminal history would be sentenced to a minimum of nearly thirty-five months in Prison.
There are other considerations. For example, a defendant can argue for a downward departure from his scoresheet if he meets certain conditions (victim was an aggressor, defendant is youthful, cooperation with law enforcement, etc.). Additionally, certain enhancements apply if the crime was committed in relation to gang activity, or the defendant was recently released from prison. Nevertheless, the above lays out the essence of the sentencing scheme in Florida.
If you are facing criminal charges, understanding the sentencing scoresheet can help you make the best decision(s) in defending your case. If you are facing criminal charges or even a sentencing hearing, the attorneys at Boatman Ricci can help you navigate the sentencing process and present the best defense possible. To schedule a consultation, call our offices at 239-330-1494.
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