How Florida Sentencing Guidelines Work
Derek Byrd, Byrd Law Firm
In Florida, we have a sentencing scheme that’s a little bit complicated. It is similar to the federal system in that we use Sentencing Guidelines in Felony Court and there’s a point system that is used to calculate what someone’s sentence may be.
Since it is complicated, it’s important that you cover this with your attorney to find out how many points you score for a new arrest. I hear the question “What do I score to?” quite often.
The idea behind Sentencing Guidelines is that, not so long ago, all defendants were not treated equally when it came to sentencing. Unfortunately, black people versus white people and poor people versus rich people did not receive the same sentence for committing the same crime. Therefore, Florida decided to create a Sentencing Guidelines system that put fairness in the system in terms of sentencing in the hope that all defendants would be treated the same, regardless of their race, age, gender, or socioeconomic status.
The problem is, in my opinion, the Sentencing Guidelines are too strict. They attach too many points compared to the severity of the crime. For example, the charge of Possession of Marijuana is not very serious and is only assigned a couple of points. The charge of Possession of Cocaine is a little bit more serious and, therefore, is assigned more points. And the crime of breaking into someone’s house is a lot more serious and results in a lot more points being assessed.
What Sentencing Guidelines do is assess a point total for each crime. Then they assess a point total to your prior record. People who have a lengthy prior record get more points assessed and then if all of the points on their Sentencing Guidelines Scoresheet total over 44 points, the person is subject to a mandatory prison sentence. This means that neither the Judge nor the prosecutor can make an exception in sentencing the person to anything less than a prison sentence. If someone scores over 44 points on their Sentencing Guidelines scoresheet (which is quite easy to do), then there is no other choice but to be sentenced to prison.