Wednesday, March 20, 2013

How Does the State of Florida Decide What to Offer a Defendant Charged With a Crime?

Key Factors in Florida's Decision Making Process:  Part Two

As mentioned in the previous post, Florida has a criminal punishment guidelines scoresheet.  What does this mean for someone who has been charged with a crime?  A person gets a certain amount of points from prior cases, where the defendant has been convicted, or resolved the case, received probation, or whatever the outcome was.  The next step is to add these numbers together; if the number is above 44, in most cases, the person will receive prison as an offer.  If their score is anything less than 44, then the guideline is called a discretionary sentence, or a sentence where any non-state prison sanction is called for.
You get no points up or down based on the quality of the attorney you have, how nice of a person you are, or what kind of charitable organizations you've been involved in before. It's just a math problem of your prior offenses and current offense, and that's how points are determined.
It's also important to note that while certain people might fall into the mandatory prison range based on their points, this is just the starting point for the negotiations on what the state's going to call for.  Many people ask, "Why am I being offered prison if I have less than 44 points?  I thought they couldn’t offer me prison because I didn't score enough points.  Shouldn’t they be offering probation?"

Unfortunately, the answer is no. In Florida, each degree of felony that you're charged with sets forth the maximum punishment allowed by law. The minimum punishment allowed by law is dictated by your amount of points, or what the prosecutor believes to be a fair offer based on the facts of the case, your relative record, the strength of the case, and other factors. So yes, you can receive a prison offer while scoring any non-state prison sanctions.  This happens frequently in cases involving victims, where they tell the court that they would like to see the person incarcerated, as a result of their conduct.

A hallmark of my practice has been to encourage my clients to not think of our representation nearly as a case by case representation, but a starting point for all of their legal needs. Whether the initial representation under my firm was for a business transaction, a criminal law matter, or an entertainment law issue, I encourage my clients to maintain contact with me as a starting point for any of their legal needs. Should there be a case that's outside of the scope of what my firm handles, I will endeavor to place them in the best hands that I know of, specializing in that area of law. Through these efforts, we strive to provide representation solutions in a wide and diverse area of law, so that our clients can keep coming back to us again and again.

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