Criminal Punishment Code
The Criminal Punishment Code (Code), contained in Sections 921.002-921.0027, F.S., is Florida’s framework for ascertaining the permissible sentencing ranges for noncapital felonies. Noncapital felonies sentenced under the Code receive an offense severity level ranking (Levels 1-10). Florida does not use a scoresheet for misdemeanor cases resolved in county court.
A noncapital felony is ranked in one of two ways. First, the felony may be assigned a ranking by its placement in a specific ranking level in the Code’s offense severity ranking chart. Some offenses are not ranked in the chart. The felonies that are not ranked in the chart are assigned a ranking based on the crime’s felony degree as provided in s. 921.0023, F.S.
Points are assigned based upon the level ranking. As the level escalates, so do the points for that offense. The points are assigned to the primary offense. Under s. 921.0024, F.S., additional points are also assigned for the following:
- any additional offenses;
- any prior offenses;
- any prior capital felonies;
- victim injury;
- legal status violations;
- community sanction violations;
- possession of a firearm: and
- prior serious felonies.
All of the points that accrue are added together and become the subtotal sentence points.
Point Multipliers for Five Enhancement
The points may be multiplied if any of five “enhancements” apply. The primary offense must qualify for enhancement if the points are multiplied. The enhancements (also called point multipliers) include:
- a violation of the Law Enforcement Protection Act (LEPA);
- a relevant drug trafficking conviction;
- repeat motor vehicle theft;
- a criminal gang-related offense; or
- an offense involving domestic violence in the presence of a child.
Except for the drug trafficking multiplier, the subtotal sentence points must be multiplied if a multiplier applies.
Total sentence points are derived from the subtotal sentence points. If no multiplier applies, the subtotal sentence points are the total sentence points.
The subtotal sentence points make up the total sentence points if no multiplier applies. On the other hand, if a multiplier applies, then the total sentence points are the subtotal sentence points as multiplied by the multiplier.
If the total sentence points are less than or equal to 44 points, then the lowest permissible sentence is any nonstate prison sanction. In many of these cases, the prosecutor will offer probation. Even though the case does not score out for prison, the person can still be sentenced up to the statutory maximum for the charge.
For instance, if a person is charged with a third-degree felony, the person might not score out to prison, but the maximum sentence allowed in the case is five years in Florida State Prison. Generally, the sentencing range is a nonprison sanction up to the statutory maximum penalty for the felony degree of the primary offense.
Sentences for multiple offenses may be imposed concurrently or consecutively.
For instance, the maximum penalty for the felony degree is generally prescribed is 30 years in Florida State Prison. An exception to the general rule that the sentence cannot exceed 30 years is when the scored lowest permissible sentence exceeds the maximum statutory penalty. If so, the scored lowest permissible sentence for the primary offense becomes both the minimum and maximum penalty for the primary offense even through it exceeds 30 years.
Another exception to this general rule applies if the total sentence points are 22 points or less and the primary offense is a nonforcible felony that meets criteria in s. 775.082(10), F.S. In those cases, there is no sentencing range. The court must impose a nonprison sanction unless it makes a written finding that such sentence would be a danger to the public.
If total sentence points are greater than 44 points, then 28 points are subtracted from that number. This total number is then multiplied by 0.75 to determine the lowest permissible sentence in prison months.
Mandatory Minimum Term
Mandatory minimum terms are an exception to general sentencing under the Code. “If the lowest permissible sentence is less than the mandatory minimum sentence, the mandatory minimum sentence takes precedence. If the lowest permissible sentence exceeds the mandatory sentence, the requirements of the … Code and any mandatory minimum penalties apply.” Rule 3.704(26) (“The Criminal Punishment Code”), Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure.
The Code includes a list of ‘mitigating’ factors in s. 921.0026, F.S. If the court finds a mitigating factor, then the court may decrease an offender’s sentence below the lowest permissible sentence. This departure is called a “downward departure.” The mandatory minimum term is not subject to these mitigating factors and only the prosecutor can agree to waive the minimum mandatory term. See State v. Vanderhoff, 14 So. 3d 1185 (Fla. 5th DCA 2009).
Florida’s Sentence Point Multipliers
Sentence point multipliers can enhance punishment in one of two ways. First, absent a multiplier, a defendant might not score sufficient points to score a lowest permissible sentence of imprisonment. Nevertheless, if the multiplier applies then points may be sufficient to score a lowest permissible sentence of imprisonment.
Secondly, if the defendant does score a sentence of imprisonment as the lowest permissible sentence, then the multiplication of points can require a significantly longer minimum sentence of imprisonment than if points were not multiplied.
Attorney on Florida’s Sentencing Code
If you have questions about Florida’s Criminal Punishment Code (Code) in Sections 921.002-921.0027, F.S., then contact a criminal defense attorney at Meltzer & Bell in Broward County, FL. With offices in Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, our attorneys represent clients throughout Broward County and Palm Beach County, FL.
Call today to discuss the best ways to fight felony criminal offenses in Florida and the scoresheet used in these cases. Call (954) 765-6585 today.
This article was last updated on Tuesday, November 1, 2016.