Saturday, April 28, 2012


How do Florida sentencing guidelines and scoresheets determine the sentence which a Judge in Tampa Bay or Pinellas will impose in my case. It's a question a Clearwater Criminal Defense Attorney is often asked, especially by many of our elected officials in the Tampa Bay area for some reason.
When someone is convicted or pleads guilty to a felony in Florida, the State Attorney will file with the clerk of court a document known as a scoresheet. The presiding Judge and the Defense attorney will assess the scoresheet to be certain that the math and assigned points are correct. 
The scoresheet calculates the number of points for the various attributes of the offense assigning points for the pending charge based on the offense level of the criminal conduct involved and any additional counts as well as giving criminal history points for the defendant's prior criminal conduct where there have been convictions and gives additional points for aggravating factors such as being on probation or house arrest at the time of the new offense, for the significance of the victim's injuries or the amount of  any financial loss to the victim.
After a finding is made of the appropriate offense level of the current charge, then added to this number are additional points for any prior criminal history and any points for additional aggravating factors. If the sum total of all of these points is under 44 (and reader, hope that it is), then there is no need to go any further with the score-sheet and the defendant is deemed to score a non state prison term, which means that the court can sentence the defendant to probation with court costs and a fine all the way to the maximum sentence for the crime charged. However, typically in Tampa Bay and Pinellas Criminal Courts a judge will give a sentence which is reflective of non-state prison, meaning something less than 365 days in jail, which can be served in county jail rather than the defendant being transferred out of county to serve the sentence in state prison, which you and your Pinellas Criminal Defense Lawyer want to avoid.(Florida's sentencing policies and history)
If a Defendant scores 44 points or higher, then the Pinellas or Tampa Bay sentencing Judge has much less discretion to avoid giving a term of state prison. The math to find the number of months a defendant must serve as a minimum amount of state jail time is arrived at in the following way:  subtract 28 points from the total points, then divide the remaining number by .75. The  number arrived at is the least amount, in months, which the Tampa Bay or Pinellas Criminal Court sentencing judge must as a matter of law sentence the defendant. Although this number is the bottom of the guidelines the judge may - based on the facts and circumstances of the case - sentence a defendant to more even up to the maximum allowable by statute, but he must at least sentence the defendant to this amount. For more on the math of a scoresheet for Florida guidelines, here is the manual used by the State Attorney's Office in Criminal Justice Courtrooms in Largo: Scoresheet Preparation Manual.
Yet there is still some hope even when a defendant scores prison time on his scoresheet. A Clearwater Criminal Defense Lawyer can file for what is known as a discretionary downward departure motion asking the Court to sentence a defendant outside of the minimum amount from the guideline range as found in the math of the scoresheet when the attorney can find appropriate reasons based on the facts of the case and the law. 
painting of a prisoner in jail
Life in Prison