Florida County Makes History by Using Criminal Sentencing Technology

October 9, 2022 Criminal Defense, News & Announcements

 On Tuesday evening, Alachua County in Florida made history by obtaining a technology that will make it easier to give sentencing to defendants based on past and pending sentences.

The county is located in Florida’s Eighth Judicial Circuit and is now going to be the first judicial circuit to use sentencing software as an official part of managing the plea-bargaining process, which is currently how 95% of cases are settled.

We will provide information on the software and how it will be used, along with responses to Florida incorporating it into the criminal law world.

What is the Equity in Sentencing Analysis System?

According to Technologies for Justice, the “Equity in Sentencing Analysis System” (ESAS) is a web-based software that contains over 2 million sentencing records from the Florida Department of Corrections. The database allows users to retrieve sentencing data from prior cases based on the Statute, Score-sheet, CPC range, county, and/or circuit in Florida.

ESAS has coined the data as “Sentencing Precedent” which helps to analyze, compare, and contrast prospective sentences in both prior and pending sentences dating back as far as 1998.

The two main public policy objectives that ESAS aims to achieve are as follows:

  • Securing a more fair sentence for defendants and protecting citizens’ Equal Protection Rights as guaranteed in the Constitution
  • Saving millions of dollars from taxpayers in the costs of state prisons

With the use of ESAS, defense attorneys, prosecutors, and judges will have the ability to analyze sentences in past cases to compare the past sentences to pending cases. The goal of using ESAS is to ensure that pending cases are consistently administered regardless of gender, race, class, religion, or any other factors that could create disparate treatment.

Alachua County – First in Florida to use ESAS

During the budget finalization in Alachua County this week, state attorney Brian Kramer and public defender Stacey Scott signed off on using ESAS moving forward in the circuit’s sentencing process.

Kramer gave the following comment to WUFT:

“The dataset is going to provide the lawyer things like the mean, the mode, the median. So that’s giving the lawyer data upon which to say, ‘OK, this situation that I’m looking at, is it less serious than the average? Is it more serious than the average? And it gives them a starting point from which to develop a sentence that hopefully eliminates some of the inequities in the criminal justice system.”

The creator of ESAS is Al Barlow, who created the company Technologies for Justice along with the sentencing database. Barlow worked in the legal field for 37 years and was inspired after encountering unfair sentencing. Back in 2017, Barlow presented the idea for his concept to the Senate Judiciary Committee—a sentencing analysis system. However, he didn’t initially receive the response he hoped for.

“They thought I was an alien. They kind of blew me off,” Barlow said. “I came back to Jacksonville, and I got with this programmer and another guy, and we built the software ourselves.”

The database isn’t cheap—Alachua County is set to pay $73,000 to integrate into the current system, along with an annual subscription of $23,000 for each office. It may not be reaching other counties anytime soon, as Barlow admitted that only one other state attorney’s office contacted him about the database, but ultimately never used it.

There are currently only 150 attorneys that are registered to use ESAS. That is in comparison to the number of people registered to practice law in Florida, which is over 100,000 individuals. ESAS is relatively new in concept, and other states have reached out to the creator to learn more about the product.

Barlow hopes that this type of technology will create more good in the sentencing process. “Florida is on the cusp of doing something very, very special,” Barlow said. “If it works half as good as we know it can, Gainesville will set a precedent for equitable sentences that the whole nation can follow.”


Barlow pushed his argument for ESAS by addressing the unequal sentencing that takes place in Florida:

“There are some facts that would justify one person getting five years [and] another person getting six years or eight years. But there’s nothing that’s going to justify one person getting county jail 30 days and another person getting 10 years. Both of them have the same charge, same prior criminal history, same points. No, there’s no justification for that. That’s too much of a divergence of a sentence.”

While it hasn’t necessarily received any backlash, there are some attorneys who do not see ESAS as the end-all-be-all for the future of sentencing. “Does it eliminate bias? No, not at all, because you can’t eliminate bias,” Kramer said. “But what is would do is give us an unbiased starting point. And then we could work from there to try and make those adjustments upward or downward as appropriate.”

Finding a Defense Attorney in Tallahassee, Florida

Getting accused of a crime is extremely stressful, especially if the defendant is convicted and given a sentence in Florida. As useful as ESAS can be in the legal world, it is still highly important for anyone charged with a crime to contact a Tallahassee criminal defense attorney in the area. Don Pumphrey and his team at Pumphrey Law Firm have experience representing clients across the state for various criminal charges. Call us today at (850) 681-7777 or leave us an online message on our website.

Written by Karissa Key

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