In Florida, when a defendant faces felony charges, the prosecutor must compile a “sentencing scoresheet”. Although the Department of Corrections has a lengthy manual in how to complete a scoresheet, a few basic ideas will help you understand the basics.
Essentially, the scoresheet takes several factors – i.e., the primary offense, any additional offenses, any injury to the victim, priors, whether a firearm was involved, whether the defendant was being supervised at the time of the new offense – gives them an appropriate weight, and then adds the points for each. If the total amount of points equals or exceeds 44 points, the defendant scores mandatory prison. If the points are less than 44, prison is discretionary.
Let’s look more closely at each of the individual factors.
- Primary Offense: this is the offense that the defendant faces that carries the longest sentence. Each charge has a corresponding offense level, which assigns a specific number of points. The more serious the offense, the more points.
- Additional Offenses: these points are assessed when a defendant faces charges in addition to the Primary Offense. As with the Primary Offense, these Additional Offenses are assigned point levels in the same manner as the Primary Offense; however, the number of points assigned here will be much less than if the same Additional Offense were listed as the Primary Offense.
- Victim Injury Points: here, a victim’s injury is classified along a spectrum ranging from slight to death, with points increasing with severity. These points are tallied for all victims and all offenses, and thus can accumulate rapidly. Special rules apply to victims of sexual penetration and contact.
- Priors: any prior criminal convictions are assigned a corresponding point value. Juvenile convictions may only be counted if the conviction is within five-years of the primary offense date but remains within the State’s discretion. Convictions that are 10 years old, without any intervening crimes, are not added.
- Legal Status Violation Points: these points are added when a defendant, “escapes from incarceration; flees to avoid prosecution; fails to appear for criminal proceeding; violates any condition of a supersedeas bond; is incarcerated; is under any form of pretrial intervention or diversion program; or, is under any form of court-imposed or prison release community supervision and commits an offense the results in a conviction.
- Community Sanction Violation Points: these points are added when a defendant violates probation, community control, or pretrial diversion. Six-points are added for a technical violation, such as not paying court fees, or for a new misdemeanor; 12-points for a new felony. Importantly, for every prior violation of probation for which the defendant was reinstated to probation, the prosecutor adds points.
- Firearm/Semi-Automatic or Machine Gun Points: if the defendant’s underlying crime involved a firearm, the State can add additional points – either 18 or 25 – depending on the circumstances.
- Prior Serios Felony Points: if a defendant has a very serious Primary or Additional Offense and one or more Prior serious felonies, 30 points is added.