Florida Sentencing Guidelines
Florida courts and judges must follow specific Florida criminal sentencing guidelines for all criminal convictions.
Although judges have some leeway when issuing a sentence, certain types of felonies must meet minimum sentencing requirements.
Florida sentencing guidelines require complex calculations based on numerous factors and circumstances.
Understanding these calculations requires experience and legal expertise.
An experienced Florida criminal defense attorney can explain your charges, the range of sentences, and your best available legal options. Your attorney will defend your interests in court and fight to give you the best possible outcome for your case.
What Is a Felony in Florida?
Under Florida law, crimes that are punishable by more than one year in prison qualify as felony offenses.
Numerous offenses are considered felonies, including:
- Aggravated assault,
- Aggravated battery,
- Child abuse,
- Drug possession (other than marijuana charges),
- Felony battery,
- Grand theft,
- Kidnapping, and
- Certain sex crimes.
Felonies fall into different categories, and the punishments for each offense depend on a variety of factors. Courts use the Florida Criminal Punishment Code to calculate sentencing requirements for each offense.
Florida Felony Levels
The legislature has created a list of felonies in Florida that fall into five separate classifications or levels.
Each classification depends on several factors used to calculate the felony level. Felony charges are very serious and can have lasting impacts on your life. If you are facing felony charges, you should consider contacting a qualified Florida criminal defense attorney to help defend your rights.
Third-degree felony offenders face sentencing punishments, including:
- A prison term of up to five years and
- A fine of up to $5,000.
Third-degree felonies are the lowest level of felony and carry less severe penalties.
Second-degree felonies are more serious offenses, and penalties for conviction may include:
- A prison term of up to 15 years and
- A finea of up to $10,000.
Florida law will usually identify certain crimes as second-degree felonies in the language of the statute.
First-degree felony offenders may face sentences including:
- A prison term of up to 30 years and
- A fine of up to $10,000.
Under certain circumstances, first-degree felony offenders may face prison sentences of more than 30 years.
Life Felonies and Capital Felonies
Life felonies and capital felonies are the most serious charges under Florida law. Florida statute must specifically designate crimes as life felonies or capital felonies. Life felonies carry life prison sentences and fines of up to $15,000. Capital felony offenders may face a death sentence.
Florida Criminal Sentencing Guidelines
Florida has changed its sentencing guidelines several times. Florida issued its most recent criminal sentencing guidelines in 1995. In 1998, the state enacted the Criminal Punishment Code based on the 1995 guidelines. The Criminal Punishment Code is commonly referred to as a score sheet. Courts use this score sheet to calculate sentencing for felonies in Florida.
The score sheet assigns a numerical value based on a ranking system established by the Florida legislature. More serious crimes receive a higher score and have harsher sentencing requirements, including mandatory minimum prison terms. If you receive a score of 44 points or more, you will face a minimum prison sentence. If you score less than 44 points, the judge is not required to sentence you to jail but may still do so.
The score sheet includes several categories that will determine the sentencing requirements.
The first category is the primary offense and refers to the crime for which the offender is convicted. If the individual is facing multiple charges, the primary offense will be the offense that carries the most severe punishment.
Any additional charges or convictions fall under the "Additional Offense" section of the score sheet.
If the felony offense caused injuries or harm to any victims, those injuries would be added to the score sheet to calculate the sentence. The score sheet assigns point values for each injury to each victim.
Injuries to victims include:
- Second-degree murder, which automatically receives 240 points;
- All other deaths, which automatically receive 120 points;
- Sexual offenses, such as sexual penetration or sexual contact;
- Severe physical injury;
- Moderate physical injury; and
- Slight injury.
Each injury to each victim will receive a point value and will be added to the total score.
For certain offenses, Florida law imposes sentence enhancers and will multiply the primary offense point total.
Sentence enhancements that receive higher point multipliers include:
- Drug trafficking,
- Criminal gang activity,
- Domestic violence, and
- Kidnapping or falsely imprisoning a child.
Each enhancement receives a different point multiplier, as defined on the Florida sentencing score sheet.
Florida courts must also consider several other factors, including:
- Legal status violations, such as escape from jail;
- Violating a community sanction, such as probation;
- Prior serious felonies, and
- Possession of a firearm during the commission of the crime.
Each category receives a point value that will add to the score sheet total.
How an Attorney Can Help
Felony convictions carry serious consequences. But whether you will face those consequences often depends on the strength of your case.
Experienced criminal defense attorneys understand sentencing requirements and score sheet calculations. Further, a skilled attorney knows that, under certain circumstances, a sentence may be modified or reduced. But understanding these procedures and available legal strategies requires an in-depth knowledge of the Florida criminal justice system.
At Skubiak & Rivas, P.A., our attorneys have spent 25 years providing thousands of clients with criminal defense representation. We will utilize our resources, knowledge, and connections to provide you strong legal representation.
Contact a Qualified Florida Criminal Defense Attorney Today
At Skubiak & Rivas, P.A., we understand how stressful and scary criminal charges can be. We believe you should not have to face the criminal justice system alone.
Our dedicated staff will thoroughly analyze your case and provide you legal guidance and assistance throughout the entire process. We provide free consultations to answer your questions and help you decide on the best course of action.