The Florida Legislature has created guidelines for sentencing defendants. Most of the time this involves a scoresheet for felony cases. A scoresheet is the Legislature’s way of giving judges guidelines. Sometimes the guidelines require the judge to make written findings in order to depart from the guidelines.
As a prosecutor, Chad Frost had to create a scoresheet on every felony case. Over the years, he created hundreds of them. This experience is important when it comes to sentencing because a scoresheet is the life blood of a judge’s determination on sentencing. It’s important to have someone who used to have responsibility for creating them on your side defending you.
How a Florida Scoresheet Works
For an in depth look at scoresheets, you can reference the manual created by the Florida Department of Corrections by clicking here. Since it is fairly long and extensive, the basics are included here.
The top of the scoresheet will look like this:
The primary offense is the highest offense that a person can be charged with. It will lay out the degree of the offense, statute, description and level of the offense. The points are important because as they add up, the possible severity of the sentence increases.
Additional offenses are just that, additional offenses that someone is charged with in the case. As you can see from the ledger, even misdemeanors can be added in this section (if the primary offense is a felony, the additional offenses can be misdemeanors). As you can also see, the point system changes an offense charge, as a primary offense doesn’t get the same number of points as if it charged as an additional offense.
Prior Record is just that: the record of a person’s past criminal activity. One thing to note about a prior record is if the primary offense occurred and it has been 10 years since the “most recent date of release from confinement, supervision or sanction, whatever is later” F.S. 912.02(5), then the prior record doesn’t score any points on the scoresheet for the new case. For example, if a crime of grand theft auto was the primary offense 20 years ago and a person was released from prison with no subsequent sentencing sanction and hasn’t committed any crimes in 11 years, then the prior record doesn’t score any points.
However, if there is even one crime that occurred in the last ten years, then all crimes score points, no matter how old they are. For example, if 20 years go someone was released from prison for Aggravated Battery with no subsequent sentencing sanction but 5 years later that person committed a Disorderly Intoxication, then both Aggravated Battery and Disorderly Intoxication score points.
There are also, additional parts to the scoresheet that multiply or add points. For example, victim injuries can affect the score by increasing the points. Violations of probation can also increase the scores.
The area of the scoresheet shown below shows the total number of points. Pursuant to F.S. 921.0024, if “the total sentence points are 22 points or fewer, the court must sentence the offender to a non-state prison sanction.” F.S. 775.082. If the total number is more than 44 points, then you subtract 28 and multiply it by .75 and that is number used to determine the lowest permissible sentence.
However, there can be a mitigating reason to depart from that lowest permissible sentence, as follows:
These mitigating circumstances allow the Judge to depart from the lowest permissible sentence. However, the law doesn’t always allow mitigates, as is the case when there are laws establishing a minimum mandatory sentence.