Every state has its own way of determining what’s a fair prison sentence for those convicted of felony offenses. As a Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyer can explain, Florida uses the score sheet established in the Criminal Punishment Code (CPC). It’s used for ascertaining prison terms for those convicted of all felonies except capital offenses.
If you’re arrested for a felony in Broward County, it’s imperative you speak to an experienced defense attorney who can help explain to you how the Florida criminal law scoresheet works. Doing so will give you a good idea of exactly how much time you may be facing.
Some may wonder, “Why not simply look up the statute and corresponding penalty?” That may be simple enough for those with internet access and the exact Florida criminal statute(s) applicable in their case. However, most criminal penalties have a broad range – and it’s not always clear where you might fall on that spectrum.
As noted in F.S. 775.08, felonies are criminal offenses punishable by the laws of the state that are punishable by imprisonment in a state penitentiary (as opposed to a county jail) or death (in the case of capital felonies). The maximum penalty one can face for a misdemeanor is one year in a county jail. For most felony convictions, the minimum you’ll serve is one year + one day. However, under the criminal scoring system, it’s possible that someone convicted of a felony who scores fewer than 44 points may receive an alternative sentence, such as probation.
There are altogether five (5) degrees of felonies in Florida:
- 3rd-degree felony – Maximum 5 years in prison
- 2nd-degree felony – Maximum 15 years in prison
- 1st-degree felony – Maximum 30 years in prison
- Life felony – Maximum Life in prison
- Capital felony – Maximum Life in prison OR Death penalty
(Such maximum penalties may be enhanced under Florida’s 10-20-Life law, codified in F.S. 775.087, which requires a minimum sentence of 10, 20, or 25 years-to-life for the commission of certain felonies involving firearms.)
Factors Weighed in Florida Felony Sentences
In determining the consequences for a felony conviction in Florida, judges are expected to take into account things like:
- The victim’s age.
- Prior convictions of the offender.
- Severity of injuries/nature of the crime.
- Use/threats to use violence.
- Whether additional felonies were committed at the same time.
- History of failure to appear, fleeing to avoid prosecution, violating bond terms, etc.
- Other enhancements/aggravating factors, such as whether the offense involved gang activity, trafficking of drugs, use of a deadly weapon, or the presence of a minor.
There may also be a downward departure in the presence of mitigating circumstances. These might include a defendant’s:
- Young age
- Developmental disability
- Mental/emotional state at the time of the crime
- Minor role in the offense
- Being a victim of abuse
The culpability of the alleged victim may also be taken into account.
Point System & Penalties
F.S. 921.0022 spells out Florida’s felony offense severity ranking chart. The scoring system assigns an Offense Level – ranging from 1-10 – for each offense. Each of those contain a certain number of points. The more serious the offense, the higher the points. Aggravating factors may result in additional points added to the final score, while mitigating factors may result in a subtraction of points.
If a person scores fewer than 22 points (typically only for low-level felonies committed by first-time offenders), it’s highly unlikely the court will impose a prison sentence. The only real exception are for when the court determines the defendant poses a danger to the community.
A defendant who scores somewhere between 22 and 44 points, the minimum penalty is a non-state prison sanction. That could include probation, house arrest, or even a county jail sentence of less than 1 year.
If a person convicted of a felony scores 45 points or more, they will be facing mandatory state prison sentence of at least 1 year and 1 day.
Here’s an example:
You’re charged with two counts of possession of cocaine, a Level 3 Offense. You will have one of those listed as your “primary offense,” which carries 16 points. The following section details “additional offenses.” The points assigned in this section are typically lower than in the “primary offense” section. A second count of cocaine possession, for instance, will be assigned an additional 2.4 points on that scoresheet. The scoresheet will take into account any victim injuries (in this example, none) and prior crimes (here, we’ll say none). The total points in this case would be 18.4 points. You may not be facing prison in this situation.
However, if a firearm was used in the commission of the offense, we add another 30 points to the score – which changes your prospects entirely. Now, you’ve scored 48.4 points, and your odds of going to prison if convicted on all counts have substantially increased.
If you’re facing felony charges in Broward County, our Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyers can help.
Call Fort Lauderdale Criminal Defense Attorney Richard Ansara at (954) 761-4011. Serving Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.
FLORIDA CRIMINAL PUNISHMENT CODE, 2019, Florida Department of Corrections & Office of the State Courts Administrator
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