Criminal Penalties and Sentencing

Criminal Penalties: Classification of felonies and misdemeanors – and applicable penalties

Chapter 775 of the Florida Statutes, known as the Florida Criminal Code, establishes the various classes of crimes and the range of potential applicable penalties, which include incarceration, probation and community control, and fines. Less serious offenses are called misdemeanors and they are only punishable by up to a year in the county jail. More serious offenses are felonies and they are punishable by more than a year in prison. Florida law establishes the following classes and a corresponding range of penalties that may be imposed as a sentence by a court:

Misdemeanor – Second Degree:

  1. Up to 60 days in jail
  2. Up to 6 months of probation
  3. Up to a $500 fine

Misdemeanor – First Degree:

  1. Up to 1 year in jail
  2. Up to 1 year of probation
  3. Up to a $1,000 fine

Felony – Third Degree:

  1. Up to 5 years in prison
  2. Up to 5 years of probation
  3. Up to a $5,000 fine

Felony – Second Degree:

  1. Up to 15 years in prison
  2. Up to 15 years of probation
  3. Up to a $10,000 fine

Felony – First Degree:

  1. Up to 30 years in prison
  2. Up to a 30 years of probation
  3. Up to a $10,000 fine

Felony punishable by life:

  1. Up to life imprisonment
  2. Up to probation for life
  3. Up to a $15,000 fine

Capital Felony:

Punishable by death or life in prison

Additional Factors Affecting Sentencing

Certain particular circumstances may affect the general range of penalties that may be imposed and may require a court to impose specific penalties such as a minimum mandatory sentence, the maximum sentence allowed by law, or to even exceed the maximum when specified.  Some of these include:

A DUI conviction requires specific DUI penalties depending on the severity and number of convictions.

Possession of a bullet proof vest during the commission of certain offenses may subject a person to an additional third degree felony charge.

If a person qualifies and is designated as a “Prison Releasee Reoffender”, then the court must impose the maximum allowable prison sentence and must serve 100% of the sentence without “good or gain time”.  Generally, “Prison releasee reoffender” means any defendant who commits, or attempts to commit:

a. Treason;

b. Murder;

c. Manslaughter;

d. Sexual battery;

e. Carjacking;

f. Home-invasion robbery;

g. Robbery;

h. Arson;

i. Kidnapping;

j. Aggravated assault with a deadly weapon;

k. Aggravated battery;

l. Aggravated stalking;

m. Aircraft piracy;

n. Unlawful throwing, placing, or discharging of a destructive device or bomb;

o. Any felony that involves the use or threat of physical force or violence against an individual;

p. Armed burglary;

q. Burglary of a dwelling or burglary of an occupied structure; or

r. Any felony violation of s. 790.07, s. 800.04, s. 827.03, s. 827.071, or s. 847.0135(5);

within 3 years after being released from a state correctional facility.

Violent offenses against law enforcement officers, correctional officers, state attorneys, judges…may cause an enhancement of the charge and penalties, under Chapter 775.0823, Florida Statutes.

A person who is a “habitual felony offender” or “violent career criminal” may be subject to enhanced penalties or mandatory minimum prison sentences, under Chapter 775.084, Florida Statutes.

A conviction for Lewd and Lascivious molestation by an adult on a child less than 12 years of age requires a minimum mandatory sentence of 25 years in prison, followed by life probation.

If a person is in possession of 10 or more images or certain child pornography, then a charge may be upgraded to the next highest classification.

Evidence of prejudice or of targeting a victim on the basis of religion while committing a crime, also known as a “hate crime”, may cause an offense to be upgraded to the next highest classification.

Wearing a mask or disguise will cause an offense to be upgraded to the next highest classification.

Possession or use of a weapon during the commission of a crime may cause an upward reclassification of an offense, and may require certain mandatory minimum penalties under 775.087, Florida Statutes.

In cases where restitution is owed to a victim, the court must order restitution to be paid as part of the sentence.

An offense may specify penalties to be imposed at sentencing, such as trafficking controlled substance charges.

In addition, the court may impose community service, classes/counseling, and any other reasonable conditions as part of a sentence.  A conviction may also cause your license to be suspended and may require you to register as a felon.

A person may also face secondary consequences due to a criminal sentence, such as deportation (if not a U.S. Citizen), the loss of civil rights (such as the right to vote, possess a firearm, or to serve on a jury), and the loss of employment and educational opportunities, among others.

Sentencing: Scoresheets and Guidelines

Under Chapter 921, Florida Statutes, known as the ‘Criminal Punishment Code” offenses are ranked from Level 1 offenses (lowest level/4 points) to level 10 offenses (highest level/116 points), and assigned points accordingly.  A person’s point total is calculated on a score sheet and establishes a guideline sentence for the judge to follow.

The Criminal Punishment Code worksheet is used to compute the total sentence points as follows:

Primary Offense

Level               Sentence Points

10       =          116

9          =          92

8          =          74

7          =          56

6          =          36

5          =          28

4          =          22

3          =          16

2          =          10

1          =          4

Additional Offenses

Level               Sentence Points

10        =          58

9          =          46

8          =          37

7          =          28

6          =          18

5          =          5.4

4          =          3.6

3          =          2.4

2          =          1.2

1          =          0.7

M         =          0.2

Victim Injury

Level               Sentence Points

2nd degree


death   =          240

Death  =          120

Severe =          40

Moderate =     18

Slight   =          4

Sexual Penetration =   80

Sexual contact =       40

Primary Offense + Additional Offenses + Victim Injury = TOTAL OFFENSE SCORE

You must also add


Level               Sentence Points

10        =          29

9          =          23

8          =          19

7          =          14

6          =          9

5          =          3.6

4          =          2.4

3          =          1.6

2          =          0.8

1          =          0.5

M         =          0.2

Total offense score + the total prior record score = your subtotal.

You must add points for a variety of reasons, including, legal status violations (+4 points), community sanction violations (+6 or more points), use of a firearm, prior serious felony and other enhancements, to get your total sentence points.

If you score more than 44 total sentence points, then you subtract 28 points and multiply the number by .75 to give you the lowest permissible prison sentence in months.

The court must impose at least the lowest permissible sentence unless it finds grounds for a downward departure.

Mitigating circumstances under which a departure from the lowest permissible sentence is reasonably justified include, but are not limited to:

(a) The departure results from a legitimate, uncoerced plea bargain.

(b) The defendant was an accomplice to the offense and was a relatively minor participant in the criminal conduct.

(c) The capacity of the defendant to appreciate the criminal nature of the conduct or to conform that conduct to the requirements of law was substantially impaired.

(d) The defendant requires specialized treatment for a mental disorder that is unrelated to substance abuse or addiction or for a physical disability, and the defendant is amenable to treatment.

(e) The need for payment of restitution to the victim outweighs the need for a prison sentence.

(f) The victim was an initiator, willing participant, aggressor, or provoker of the incident.

(g) The defendant acted under extreme duress or under the domination of another person.

(h) Before the identity of the defendant was determined, the victim was substantially compensated.

(i) The defendant cooperated with the state to resolve the current offense or any other offense.

(j) The offense was committed in an unsophisticated manner and was an isolated incident for which the defendant has shown remorse.

(k) At the time of the offense the defendant was too young to appreciate the consequences of the offense.

(l) The defendant is to be sentenced as a youthful offender.

(m) The defendant’s offense is a nonviolent felony, the defendant’s Criminal Punishment Code scoresheet total sentence points under s. 921.0024 are 60 points or fewer, and the court determines that the defendant is amenable to the services of a postadjudicatory treatment-based drug court program and is otherwise qualified to participate in the program as part of the sentence. For purposes of this paragraph, the term “nonviolent felony” has the same meaning as provided in s. 948.08(6).

Except as provided in paragraph (2)(m), the defendant’s substance abuse or addiction, including intoxication at the time of the offense, is not a mitigating factor under subsection (2) and does not, under any circumstances, justify a downward departure from the permissible sentencing range.

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