Under the 1998 Florida Criminal Punishment Code, a criminal code scoresheet is required for and applies to sentencing for all felonies in Florida except capital felonies. The score sheets can be found in Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure 3.990, 3.991 and 3.992. The Code requires that the prosecutor fill out the score sheet (mistakes are often made), given to Defense counsel for review to ensure its accuracy, and also given to the judge to review and sign. Defense attorneys cannot be compelled to fill out a score sheet. The score sheet requirement applies to ALL Florida defendants regardless of whatever county in which the case is being prosecuted.
The primary purpose of the Florida Criminal Punishment Code is to provide for requirements and sentencing guidelines that take into account all of the aspects of a case that may be relevant to each particular defendant, such as gang affiliation, criminal history, firearms used, injury to victims, etc. Some of these factors can lead to “multipliers” in “points” and thus a more significant sentence.
Keep in mind that you only need 44 points to “score” a prison sentence under the Florida Criminal Punishment Code (“lowest permissible sentence is any non-state prison sanction”).
What Is The “Primary Offense”?
The “primary offense” is defined by the Florida Supreme Court as “the offense at conviction pending before the court for sentencing for which the total sentence points recommend a sanction that is as severe as, or more severe than, the sanction recommended for any other offense committed by the offender and pending before the court at sentencing. Only one count of one offense before the court for sentencing shall be classified as the primary offense. All other offenses, including multiple counts of the same offense scored as the primary offense, are to be listed as additional offenses.”
More clearly or plainly stated, the primary offense is basically the crime that carried the most significant sentence out of all of the crimes a person is being charged with. Each crime was assigned a offense severity level (1 through 10 being the most serious). Each severity offense corresponds to a numerical point value. For example, a Level 3 severity ranking works out to 36 points. Once a defendant reaches 44 points or more on a score sheet, they receive automatic prison time. For a look at a Florida score sheet, see the Florida Criminal Punishment Code on page 25.
What Does “Additional Offenses” Mean?
After points are assessed and scored for an offense as the primary, every other charge that a person is being charged with is added on as additional offenses. The offenses are still ranked in severity from Level 1 through 10, but the points assessed for each Level are less than if it was a primary offense. Using the same Level 3 severity ranking above, while as a primary offense a Level 3 crime scores 36 points, as an additional offense it only scores 2.4 points. There can be multiple counts that a person is being charged with so each count carries with it that same numerical value (i.e. 2 counts of a Level 3 additional offense would score 4.8 points).
Defendant’s Prior Record
After the points for the primary and secondary offenses have been added, the prosecutors then look to the defendant’s criminal history and add points for every crime that the person has previously been convicted of. The crimes still use the Level 1 to 10 severity ranking, but less points are assessed than if it was a primary or secondary offense. For example, a Level 3 previous conviction would only score 1.6 points (as opposed to the 36 or 2.4 points above).
After the above points are assessed, the prosecutor will then add more points if there was victim injury in the alleged offense. The varying levels are Moderate (18 points), Severe (40 points), Death (120 points), 2nd Degree Murder (240 points), while sex crimes are classified as Slight (4 points), Sex Penetration (80 points) or Sex Contact (40 points). Points will vary depending on the severity of the injury as well as the number of victims. So points are assessed per victim.
Legal Status or Community Sanction Violations
Next, the Florida Criminal Punishment Code assesses points for things like escaping, fleeing, failures to appear (which is pretty common for some defendants), etc. Any of these violations could add an extra 4 points to the scoresheet. Also, the scoresheet adds points for crimes that are committed while a person was on probation, home confinement/community control, pretrial diversion or intervention, etc. These could add yet another 6, 12 or 24 points to the scoresheet.
Firearms, Prior Serious Crimes and Other Enhancements
If you committed a crime using a gun guess what? That adds yet another 18 points to your scoresheet, or 25 points if you used a machine gun. If you had a prior serious felony conviction on your record, you can also get another 30 points.
Enhancements or “multipliers” can also be added if your crime was related to gang violence, car theft, domestic violence in the presence of a related child, or drug trafficking. These multipliers will each multiply your scoresheet points by 1.5.
What’s My Sentence?
As described above, if your total scoresheet points are equal to 44 points or less than 44 points, you do not score prison. But if you score above, then If your total sentence points are less than or equal to 44 points, you do not have a minimum prison sentence (“discretionary sentence” and the judge decides on probation, jail or some other sanction). If your total score is above 44 points, then you score prison and will receive a mandatory prison sentence.
To calculate how many months you will receive in jail, you have to apply the following formula:
__________________________ minus 28 = ____________________ x .75 =__________ total sentence points lowest permissible prison sentence in months.
So say for example after all of the points and enhancements are added, your score sheet comes out to 200 points. We would take 200 points and subtract 28 which would equal 172 points.
Next, we would take the 172 points and multiply it by .75 which would equal 129. So your lowest permissible prison sentence would be 129 months (just under 11 years in prison). Now mind you, this is the lowest permissible sentence and the judge may still go above the scoresheet sentence.
Some crimes require a minimum mandatory sentence already, like some trafficking charges. In those cases, the higher of the minimum sentences would control and you would be sentenced to the higher of the two.
There is also certain circumstances that would warrant a “downward departure” from the Florida Criminal Punishment Code sentence to deviate from the minimum sentence or if the defendant qualified as a “youthful offender” who is being sentenced before their 21st birthday the judge can use that as a mitigating factor and sentence that person to a lesser term.
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