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Why can the State Attorney’s Office continue to bring up my prior criminal charges?

Many individuals previously convicted of criminal charges in Florida are incredibly frustrated with Florida’s current sentencing structure which permits the State Attorney’s Office in its preparation of scoresheets and plea negotiations to continue to bring up old charges.  Further, most judges in misdemeanor cases, which do not invoke the Florida scoresheet system, consider prior convictions when sentencing folks.  Unfortunately, as a Tampa Criminal Defense Attorney, there are many things we can do, but this article explains the reasoning and the basis behind those priors still being considered by the Court and State Attorney’s Office in determining a sentence.

First, determining sentences in felonies in Florida occur under the Florida sentencing scoresheet structure.  As we’ve discussed elsewhere in our Tampa Criminal Defense Attorney  blog, a scoresheet takes into account a multitude of factors including, but not limited to prior arrest record, prior violations of probation, injuries to the alleged victim, and other mitigating and aggravating factors. The most common mitigating factors are either assisting law enforcement in the arrest and investigation of others and/or the need for specialized services or treatment for a dual-diagnosis condition.  A dual-diagnosis condition is one that involves both mental health issues and relates to some sort of substance abuse.  It’s worth noting that the Florida sentencing structure does not permit an individual to seek a downward departure based solely on an addiction.  We imagine this is the Florida Legislature essentially letting others know that they will not justify lowering sentences below scoresheet calculations based solely on substance abuse.  As a Tampa Criminal Defense Attorney , this is obviously frustrating and very difficult because at the heart of the overwhelming majority of criminal matters is some sort of substance abuse.

Additionally, it’s worth noting that prior convictions for certain crimes can lead to enhanced sanctions and criminal charges from the State Attorney’s Office in Florida.  For example, if someone is a prior convicted felon, they obviously cannot possess a firearm.  If they are found with a firearm as a convicted felon, they face the charge of felon in possession of a firearm which carries a three-year minimum mandatory sentence,  if the felon is in actual possession of the firearm.  Other examples of charges that can only be raised due to prior convictions include, but are not limited to felony. Driving where license is suspended or revoked, felony prostitution and/or felony petty theft.  These occur when an individual is adjudicated of the misdemeanor charge three times in five years.  This permits the State Attorney’s Office to charge the otherwise misdemeanor charge as a felony with a maximum sentence of five years in a Florida state prison.

Fortunately, we can work with the State Attorney’s Office and the courts to mitigate these prior charges by showing how our clients have changed since their prior criminal charges, our client’s needs and the unique circumstances of the case.  We truly understand the frustration for folks who feel that they have served their sentence once, and they shouldn’t continue to be punished for it.  It’s also especially frustrating that there isn’t a time limit for the application for the majority of these offenses.  Unfortunately, though, the current state of Florida law allows these issues to occur.  Until the law changes, we’ll continue to battle for our clients in courtrooms to mitigate the damage from one’s prior records and prevent these prior criminal charges from continuing to rear their ugly heads in our Clients’ lives.

If you or someone you know has questions concerning their scoresheet and/or their sentence in their Florida criminal case, contact the Tampa Criminal Defense Attorneys of the Hackworth Law Firm for a free case consultation. Our consultations are always free, and we’ll determine an aggressive and effective strategy for us to fight your criminal case.  If you would like to contact one of our Tampa Criminal Defense Attorney s immediately, please use the “Contact Us Now” tab in the upper right-hand corner of our website.  We appreciate your taking the time to check out our Tampa Criminal Defense Attorney blog and look forward to working with you.