In the state of Florida, if you are arrested on a felony charge, you may face serious ramifications, which is why you need an experienced criminal defense attorney to represent you.
Florida’s Circuit Criminal Court Uses the Criminal Punishment Scoresheet
Florida breaks down felony offenses into 10 levels of severity. Level 10 (e.g., murder) is the most severe; whereas, Level 1 (e.g., baiting animals) is the least. Florida’s Criminal Punishment Code Scoresheet can be used to determine whether an individual is at risk for going to prison and, if so, how long. Issues that increase points:
- A prior criminal history
- Victims injured
- Death of a victim
- On probation at the time of a new criminal charge
The prosecutor calculates the charges. Once complete, the scoresheet is given to the defense attorney.
As a former prosecutor, Criminal Defense Attorney Ben Stechschulte knows that the prosecutor’s office may have incomplete and/or incorrect records: this leads to a miscalculated scoresheet. As your defense attorney, he reviews your criminal history and addresses any issues that may reduce your sentence.
For example, if:
- You were just charged and not convicted of a previous crime that is included on your scoresheet, he can argue that those prior charges should not count against you.
- The alleged victim provoked you, although you are still at fault, this could help reduce your sentence.
- You were under extreme duress, coerced into performing the action. This commonly occurs in instances involving individuals under the age of 18.
Under 22 Points
An individual who scores less than 22 points can expect to spend time in county jail. That is unless the state’s attorney establishes a legal reason that an individual should receive an upward departure sentence (this rarely happens).
More Than 22 Points, But Less Than 44 Points
The judge may choose to impose a prison sentence; however, a prison sentence is not mandatory. An individual within this point range is eligible for a non-state prison sanction: this could include probation, county jail time, house arrest or time served with a fine.
44 Points and Above
Unless Rule 3.992(b) Reasons for Departure – Mitigating Circumstances applies, an individual who scores 44 points or above requires a prison sentence be served within the Florida Department of Corrections prison system.
Rule 3.992(b) Reasons for Departure – Mitigating Circumstances
Even if your score translates into 3 years of prison, the judge may still decide to reduce your sentence or just order probation.
- A plea bargain may be possible; especially if other individuals are charged in the crime and you were just a minor participant.
- If you are under the age of 18, you have a different thinking process than an adult. Your ability to understand the criminal nature of a crime may be used as part of your defense.
- If you have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or a mental health condition that affects your views, these could be used in your defense.
- In Florida, there are certain crimes that disregard the age of the offender. These crimes are automatically tried within the adult criminal court system. Even so, doubt or departure may be applicable.
- A youthful offender, who is under 21 or 22 years old may receive a reduced sentence.
Ways You Can Promote Leniency from the Court
These are the specific mitigating circumstances that can be used to go below the criminal punishment scoresheet.
- If you have a mental disorder that is not related to substance abuse or disability, oftentimes, seeking help through counseling to address your mental health issues is viewed positively by the court.
- Providing restitution before going to court or being sentenced can reduce your sentence. For example, paying an alleged victim’s medical bills, or compensating an individual with the money that was allegedly stolen can make a difference to the court.
- Cooperation is important, accept responsibility and provide information.
- Showing remorse and admitting a lapse of judgment at the time of the crime.
- Enrolling in drug treatment programs following arrest.
As a former prosecuting attorney and an expert in criminal trial law, board certified Criminal Defense Attorney Ben Stechschulte has the experience necessary to manage Florida’s Felony Scoresheet to minimize the sentence of his clients, providing our clients with the quality representation they deserve.