What’s The Score?
What’s the Score?: Decoding Florida’s Sentencing Guidelines
By Jessica Travis on Tuesday, August 6, 2013
Getting arrested in Florida is a serious matter. The ramifications from being detained, charged, and possibly convicted of a crime are life altering and these unfortunate situations should be handled with the upmost diligence. Part of handling this process with care is understanding the often complicated Florida sentencing guidelines and how they can impact an offender. Whether an individual is being charged with their first-time offense, or an individual has been labeled a habitual offender, sentencing guidelines and the rules that they encompass can greatly affect the time an individual must spend behind bars.
In the State of Florida, sentencing guidelines are sanctioned under the Criminal Punishment Code (CPC). Florida Statute § 921.002 discusses how the CPC, enacted by Florida legislators in 1998, determines the guidelines for sentencing individuals convicted of felony offenses. This statute, along with the CPC, governs the length an individual must serve in prison or jail based on a point system. The point system that is allocated by the sentencing guidelines is an intricate part of the
the sentencing process. In order to understand how sentencing works in Florida, the point system method adopted by the Criminal Punishment Code must be explored.
The Florida sentencing and the Criminal Punishment Code has designated every crime with a certain offense level. The more serious the legislature deems the crime, the more points the offense is given. Therefore, under the CPC, each felony crime is given a certain point value ranging from one to ten. The point system is scaled from the least serious felony being a one on the point system to the most serious crime being a ten. Florida uses this point system and applies it to an individual charged with a felony.
When an individual is arrested and charged with a felony offense, the prosecuting attorney will prepare a “score sheet” for the individual. Under Florida Statute § 921.0024, “[a] sentencing scoresheet must be prepared for every defendant who is sentenced for a felony offense.”
This sheet will include the criminal history of the individual as well as the current offense the individual is being charged with. Based on the point system discussed above, the prosecutor will then add up the points from the previous and current charges to determine the sentencing guidelines in which to apply against the individual.
By adding up the points based on the individual’s current and past criminal history, the court can use this scoresheet as a guideline to determine the length of the individual’s sentence. For example, if the individual’s scoresheet equals less than 44 points, the court can sentence the person to jail or probation, rather than sending the individual to prison.
When the individual’s total score exceeds 44 points, the court is required to sentence the individual to a prison term, unless there are specific reasons to allow a downward departure. As with many aspects of the legal system, the court has the ultimate discretion in sentencing an offender
The point system and the CPC guidelines controlling Florida’s sentencing policies are complex and can often be confusing. By understanding the sentencing process and the rights you have, you can make sure you are treated fairly by the legal system. Therefore, it is important to contact a knowledgeable and experienced criminal defense attorney in order to properly navigate and know these laws.