Sentencing is an important aspect of the criminal process, and it is important to work with an experienced criminal defense attorney who has a strong understanding of how to navigate the process in order to minimize the consequences of conviction. One particularly important set of rules that can come up in criminal sentencing are mandatory minimum sentences.

Mandatory minimum sentences exist for various crimes at both the state and federal level. Under Florida law, some offenses have mandatory minimum sentences and some don’t. For those which do, a scoresheet is used to determine the lowest permissible sentence under the Criminal Punishment Code. The code works by assigning a sentence points based on various factors in a criminal case. These include the nature of the primary offense, additional offenses, the individual’s prior record, whether there was any injury to the victim and various other circumstances of the case. 

Once the total number of sentence points is determined, the lowest possible sentence is determined using specific rules.  If the lowest possible sentence under the code is less than the mandatory minimum sentence assigned by statute for the particular offense, the mandatory minimum sentence is supposed to be applied. If the lowest permissible sentence is greater than the mandatory minimum sentence, the court must still abide by the mandatory minimum.

That being said, the Criminal Punishment Code does give judges the ability to assign a sentence below the lowest permissible sentence is there are circumstances or factors that reasonably justify a lower sentences. Judges are required to provide a written statement justifying such sentencing departures. The state has the ability to appeal sentences falling below the lowest permissible sentence, and it is important to work with an experienced attorney when this occurs.

In our next post, we’ll look a bit more about sentencing guidelines, mandatory minimums, and how an experienced attorney can help provide solid advocacy in the criminal sentencing process.

Sources:

Florida Department of Corrections and Florida Office of the State Courts Administrator, Florida Criminal Punishment Code: Scoresheet Preparation Manual, Effective July 2015

Florida Statutes, Title XLVII, Chapters 921, 924