Written by attorney Russell J. Ferraro III

Florida Criminal Punishment Code - What's Your Score?

Just like your credit, your golf game and your fantasy football league, how you score in a Florida criminal case may affect the rest of your life! In its infinite wisdom, and in an effort to take discretion away from local judges, the Florida Legislature created a scoring system known as the Criminal Punishment Code to set the parameters for sentencing people that are convicted of felony offenses.

Each crime has a designated offense level, one being the lowest, ten being the highest. For example, Possession of Cannabis (more than 20 grams), is a level one offense. Home Invasion Robbery with a deadly weapon, Treason and other Life Felonies are level 10 offenses. Once you hit level 7 (56 points) or any combination of crimes that scores 44 points or more, a prison sentence is mandated unless you have a legal reason for a downward departure. In addition your prior record is also included in the equation, as well as other multipliers depending on the facts of the case. The law mandates that the minimum amount of time that you must serve in prison equals your total score, minus 28 x .75.

Many people think that the minimum score is what they are supposed to get. This is not always the case. While the judge can’t sentence under the score without a legal reason, he can sentence above the score, all the way to the statutory maximum. For example, a Burglary of a Home is a second degree felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison and is also level 7 offense which scores 56 points. It requires a minimum of 21 months in prison even if it is a first offense (56-28x.75=21). Therefore, the judge is given a sentencing range of 21 months to 15 years and cannot go below or above that without legal reason to do so.

There are only a few reasons to depart from the guidelines lawfully. If you, a family member or friend is facing prosecution for a Florida felony, it is extremely important that you are aware of the Criminal Punishment Code Score and the possible reasons to depart. Knowing your score will help you to determine your best options in resolving your criminal case.

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