Sentencing, In General

Florida criminal offenses are defined as either misdemeanors or felonies. First degree misdemeanor offenses are punishable by up to 364 days in the county jail, one year of probation, or a fine of $1000.  Second degree misdemeanor offenses are punishable by up to 60 days in the county jail, 6 months of probation, or a fine of $500.  There are also multiple degrees of felony offenses.  Third degree felonies are punishable by up to 5 years of incarceration; second by up to 15 years; third by up 30 years.  There are also offenses which are punishable by life and first degree murder can be punished with the death penalty.  A judge has broad discretion to determine what an appropriate sentence should be.  For misdemeanors, the judge can adjudicate the defendant guilty, or can withhold adjudication, which would not, therefore qualify as a conviction. In felony cases, a judge may only withhold adjudication for third degree felonies and second degree felonies, if a certain legal showing is made.  Additionally, if the State Attorney charges a defendant with a felony, prior to any sentencing the State Attorney will prepare a Criminal Punishment Code Scoresheet.  This takes into account the severity of the current offense and the defendant's criminal history and, depending on the score, can force a judge to sentence someone to incarceration, unless the defendant's attorney files and wins a motion for downward departure.  Mr. Glassman has argued numerous downward departure motions and he will ensure that all mitigating evidence is presented at any sentencing hearing.  The general rules dictating the sentencing range for various felonies have, however, been superseded by numerous other sentencing provisions.  A discussion of those provisions follows.

Sentencing Statuses: Prison Releasee Re-Offenders (PRR), Habitual Felony Offenders (HOQ, HVOQ), Three-Time Violent Felony Offenders, Violent Career Criminals (VCC)

Florida has a complex sentencing scheme for defendants who have prior criminal history.  Each of these statuses has a different effect on the potential sentencing range in a defendant's case and each has its own legal requirement.  Mr. Glassman has studied these sentencing enhancements and, if the State Attorney is seeking one in your case, Mr. Glassman will ensure that all of the myriad legal requirements are met in your particular circumstances.   

Prison Releasee Re-offender, F.S. 775.082

A prison releasee re-offender is defined as an individual who has committed a qualifying felony offense within 3 years of release from a previous incarceration sentence with the Florida Department of Corrections. The effect of this designation is severe. The minimum permissible sentence is set at the maximum statutory sentence. For example, a person charged with a third degree felony which is normally punishable by up to 5 years of incarceration will have imposed upon them a mandatory minimum sentence of 5 years of incarceration.  

Habitual Felony Offender, F.S. 775.084(1)(a)

An habitual felony offender is defined as an individual who has been convicted of two prior felonies and is now before the court for a third felony offense that is committed within 5 years of the sentence on the last felony.  This designation doubles the permissible sentence that a court may impose.  For example, an individual who has been charged with a second degree felony, normally punishable by up to 15 years of incarceration, now faces a potential penalty of 30 years of incarceration.

Habitual Violent Felony Offender, F.S. 775.084(1)(b) 

An habitual violent felony offender is defined as an individual who has been convicted of two prior qualifying offenses and is now before the court for a third qualifying offense that is committed within 5 years of the end of the sentence of the qualifying offense.  The list of qualifying offenses includes charges that the Legislature believes are violent in nature.  This designation both doubles the permissible sentence that a court may impose and imposes a mandatory minimum sentence.  For example, an individual who has been charged with a second degree felony, normally punishable by up to 15 years of incarceration, now faces a potential penalty of 30 years of incarceration with a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years of incarceration.

Three-Time Violent Felony Offender, F.S. 775.084(1)(c)

A three time violent felony offender is defined (similarly to an HVFO) as an individual who has been convicted of two prior qualifying offenses and is now before the court for a third qualifying offense that is committed within 5 years of the end of the sentence of the qualifying offense.  This designation acts similarly to a PRR designation, in that the maximum permissible sentence becomes a mandatory minimum sentence.  For example, a person charged with a third degree felony which is normally punishable by up to 5 years of incarceration will have imposed upon them a mandatory minimum sentence of 5 years of incarceration.

Violent Career Criminal, F.S. 775.084(1)(d)

A violent career criminal is defined as an individual who has been convicted of three prior qualifying offenses and is now before the court for a fourth qualifying offense that is committed within 5 years of the end of the sentence of the last qualifying offense.  The list of qualifying offenses for a VCC designation is fairly small and the effect of the designation is severe.  The maximum permissible sentence is almost tripled and the minimum permissible sentence is twice that of a PRR designation.  For example, a person charged with a second degree felony, which is normally punishable by up to 15 years of incarceration, will face up to 40 years of incarceration with a mandatory minimum sentence of 30 years of incarceration.

Mandatory Minimum Sentences

 Numerous criminal statutes carry mandatory minimum sentences.  In general, when an individual is sentenced to incarceration in the Florida Department of Corrections, the person serves 85% of the sentence.  However, a mandatory minimum sentence means that the individual will serve every single day of the sentence.  Trafficking, homicide, battery on a law enforcement and numerous other statutes carry mandatory minimum sentences. A major statute that details mandatory sentences is Florida's 10-20-Life Act.

In 1999 Florida passed a law strengthening the penalties associated with firearm-related crimes.  The law's name comes from three main mandatory sentences:

  1. Possessing a firearm during a felony: 10 year mandatory minimum
  2. Discharging a firearm during a felony: 20 year mandatory minimum
  3. Injuring or killing someone with the firearm: 25 to life

In addition, the statute also provided mandatory minimum sentences for a range of firearm-related offense, such as felon in possession of a firearm, aggravated assault with a firearm, etc.  Mr. Glassman has represented numerous individuals charged with firearm-related offenses and can help you understand the nature of these mandatory sentences.

Violent Felony Offenders of Special Concern (VOSC)

 An additional sentencing enhancement that is often in the courtroom is the "Violent Felony Offender of Special Concern" designation. This designation is applied to individuals that have been charged with violating their probation and the offense on which the person is serving probation is a qualifying violent offense. The designation adds an additional layer of process that the court must follow before sentencing the person on the violation.  If a judge wishes to place the probationer back on probation, the Court must first hold a "danger hearing", at which the State Attorney is given an opportunity to prove that the probationer represents a danger to the community.  If the State Attorney proves this allegation at the hearing, then the Court is stripped of its discretion to reinstate probation and must, instead, sentence the probationer to a period of incarceration.

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