Florida Sentencing Guidelines

June 3, 2021 Criminal Defense

Florida criminal offenses are split into two categories: misdemeanors and felonies. Misdemeanor convictions are pretty straightforward. First degree misdemeanors are punished with up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine. Second degree misdemeanors carry up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine.

Sentencing in misdemeanor cases is largely up to the judge, with information provided by both the prosecution and the defense, and the judge sentencing somewhere within those limits. Probation and other programs are sometimes a part of those sentences, but for the most part a judge can go as low or as high as they see appropriate.

Felony cases are very different since the adoption of the scoresheet system in the fall of 1983.

History of Florida Sentencing Guidelines

In the mid-80’s the Florida legislature realized that individuals were receiving dramatically different sentences based on the judge who was sentencing them. This resulted in the passing of the 1983 Sentencing Guidelines. These guidelines sought to ensure that that there was consistency that was replicable, and to create some sort of uniform sentencing scheme.

In 1994, these guidelines were revamped through the passage of the “Safe Streets Act” to take into account the limited amount of prison resources, and place emphasis on the incarceration of violent and repeat offenders.

This was followed up with the Crime Control Act of 1995. Use of these guidelines was deemed to be unconstitutional from late-1995 to mid-1997, but are still in use today.

The Criminal Punishment Code was introduced in 1998 and became effective for all felony offenses committed on or after October of 1998, repealing the prior guidelines for this time period. Under the Code, the current maximum prison penalties are:

  • Third Degree Felony – Five Years
  • Second Degree Felony – Fifteen Years
  • First Degree Felony – Thirty Years
  • Life/Capital Felony – Life in Prison

These statutory maximum sentences are provided in Florida Statutes 775.082. The minimum penalties are far less clear though, decided instead by a complicated score sheet system.

Florida Score Sheet

If you or someone you care about has been charged with a felony, it is crucial to contact a criminal defense attorney who can help you through the process. There are countless factors outside the content of this article which can impact a prison sentence by decades. Call a Criminal Defense Attorney in Florida today at (850) 681-7777 or send an online message to discuss your rights during an open and free consultation with a criminal defense attorney in our legal team.

The Florida Department of Corrections publishes a Scoresheet Preparation Manual with the help of the state courts. This manual is difficult to discern and must be considered alongside the relevant statutes and criminal procedure codes in order to get a clear picture. Essentially, upon conviction, the prosecutor will provide the court with a scoresheet and the process will begin.

Steps 1-12: Demographics

First, the following information must be recorded:

  • Date of Sentence
  • Scoresheet Preparer (prosecutor)
  • County
  • Sentencing Judge
  • Defendant’s Name
  • Date of Birth
  • Department of Corrections Number
  • Race
  • Gender
  • Primary Offense Date
  • Primary Docket Number
  • Plea or Trial (Guilty Plea vs. Guilty verdict at trial

Once this information has been recorded, the judge will move on to the point values.

Steps 13-14: Primary Offense and Prior Capital Offense

The court will isolate the charge that is currently before the court, which has the highest “point value.” Florida Statutes 921.0022(3) places these point values on the most common charges, while Florida Statutes 921.0024 lays out the process and how many points are present for each level.

  • Level 10 = 116 Points
  • Level 9 = 92 Points
  • Level 8 = 74 Points
  • Level 7 = 56 Points
  • Level 6 = 36 Points
  • Level 5 = 28 Points
  • Level 4 = 22 Points
  • Level 3 = 16 Points  
  • Level 2 = 10 Points
  • Level 1 = 4 Points

When deciding which violation (if there are multiple) is the highest, the court includes “multipliers” for:

  • Drug Trafficking
    • For a level 7 or 8 offense, by 1.5, at the discretion of the Court
  • Grand Theft Motor Vehicle
    • By 1.5 if there are three or more priors
  • Law Enforcement Protection Act
    • By 1.5, 2 or 2.5 depending on the part of the act that was violated
  • Street Gang
    • By 1.5 (unless this would create a sentence over the maximum allowed)
  • Domestic Violence
    • By 1.5 if in front of a child of the household under 16

If the Defendant has a prior capital offense, the primary offense points are tripled. For example, a level 7 offense has 56 points from Step 13 (“Primary Offense”), but an additional 112 points added in Step 14 (“Prior Capital Felony Points/Primary Offense”) if such a prior exists.

Steps 15-17: Additional Offenses and Prior Capital Offense

Florida Statutes 921.0024 also provides points values for any additional offenses. These are offenses which are before the court as part of the same case. The points are a lot lower at this stage but are multiplied when there are multiple counts in the same category.

  • Level 10 = 58 Points per count
  • Level 9 = 46 Points per count
  • Level 8 = 37 Points per count
  • Level 7 = 28 Points per count
  • Level 6 = 18 Points per count
  • Level 5 = 5.4 Points per count
  • Level 4 = 3.6 Points per count
  • Level 3 = 2.4 Points per count
  • Level 2 = 1.2 Points per count
  • Level 1 = .7 Points per count
  • Misdemeanor Offense = .2 Points per count

If the Defendant has a prior capital offense, the Additional offense points are also tripled.

If a person is convicted of attempt, conspiracy, or solicitation to commit a crime, the score is one step lower than the completed offense would have been.

Steps 18-24: Enhancers

If a victim was injured, additional points are added based on the nature:

  • Second Degree Murder = 240 Points
  • Death = 120 Points
  • Sexual Penetration = 80 Points
  • Sexual Contact = 40 Points
  • Severe Injury = 40 Points
  • Moderate Injury = 18 Points
  • Slight Injury = 4 Points

Additional points are also added for previous offenses. Non-sexual juvenile crimes are only scored if committed within 5 years of the new date of offense. Juvenile crimes of a sexual nature can be excluded if it has been more than 5 years between the date of offense, and the defendant has stayed-conviction free for a period of 5 years from release to the commission of the new offense. If an adult remains conviction free for 10 years following release, those are not counted either. If a conviction is counted, it adds:

  • Level 10 = 29 Points per count
  • Level 9 = 23 Points per count
  • Level 8 = 19 Points per count
  • Level 7 = 14 Points per count
  • Level 6 = 9 Points per count
  • Level 5 = 3.6 Points per count
  • Level 4 = 32.4 Points per count
  • Level 3 = 1.6 Points per count
  • Level 2 = .8 Points per count
  • Level 1 = .5 Points per count
  • Misdemeanor Offense = .2 Points per count

If the Defendant has a prior level 8, 9 or 10 offense, 30 points are automatically added, one-time only, independent of the above points. These are known as “Prior Serious Felony Points.”

There are also additional points added for:

These vary widely based on the situation.

What do all These Points Mean?

The total points are calculated, and the magic number is 44. Less than 44 and the judge is not forced to impose prison, above 44 and a minimum prison sentence is determined.

This is determined by subtracting 28 and multiplying the remainder by .75. This is the minimum number of months. For example, 128 points results in a minimum of 75 months in prison. A person with 43 points can go straight to probation, and a person with 44 points must do a year of prison. There are some circumstances where a judge can depart below these, but that usually results from a plea deal due to the ability of the prosecution to appeal. The non-exhaustive enumerated list can be found in Florida Statutes 921.0026.

Find a Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me

If you or someone you care about has been charged with a felony or misdemeanor, contact a Criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible to discuss your options. Don Pumphrey and the members of the legal team at Pumphrey Law Firm have been navigating the current point scheme since it was introduced. The criminal defense attorneys in the Pumphrey Law legal team will fight for your rights and make sure that you receive the best possible results based on the facts of your case. Call a Defense Attorney today at (850) 681-7777 or send an online message to discuss your rights during an open and free consultation with a defense attorney in our legal team.

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