Many people charged with a crime have many questions to their Tampa criminal lawyers questions about what their Florida Scoresheet means and how the totals are calculated. By way of background, Florida utilizes a complex scoring system to calculate the minimum/bottom available sentence, while the maximum sentence is the statutory maximum related solely to the degrees of felonies. For example, if the Scoresheet sets a minimum sentence of 34 months and the charge is a third degree felony, the legal sentence would range from 34 months to five (5) years or 60 months.
First and foremost, the responsibility of preparing the Florida Scoresheet is solely on the Assistant State Attorney prosecuting the case. There are obvious ethical concerns with tasking a criminal defense attorney to prepare a document that is essentially going to be used against their clients. Any discrepancies between the prepared Scoresheet and what the criminal defense attorney believe should be on the Scoresheet must be determined by the Court during sentencing.
Secondly, the Florida Scoresheet is a preprinted, carbon form. The form is standard and used uniformly throughout the entire state. This article will attempt to define some of the more basic, common terms used throughout the form.
Lastly, the preparation and analysis of the prepared Florida Scoresheet is one of the most critical stages of a criminal case because it provides the baseline for a potential sentence. As you can imagine, the ability to remove any convictions from the Scoresheet could potentially cause a significant reduction in the baseline sentence. Reducing one’s baseline sentence will have a major impact on the strategy of handling a criminal case.
We have identified the most common terms folks have questions regarding their Scoresheet are and provided a brief definition from “Scoresheet Preparation Manual” from the Florida Department of Corrections and The Office of the State Courts Administrator. This Manual is essentially the gold standard of preparing and evaluating criminal scoresheets:
- Primary Offense – “the offense at conviction pending before the court for sentencing for which the total sentence points recommend a sanction that is as severe as, or more severe than, the sanction recommended for any other offense committed by the offender and pending before the court at sentencing.” Ultimately, it is the most severe charge.
- Additional Offense – “any offense other than the primary offense for which an offender is convicted and which pending before the court for sentencing at the time of the primary offense.” This is essentially the other charges you are facing aside from the primary offense.
- Victim Injury – “physical injury or death suffered by a person as a direct result of any offense pending before the court for sentencing.” Ultimately, this area often gives Tampa criminal defense attorneys the opportunity to advocate for their clients through negotiations with the State Attorney’s Office. It is important to note that not only does this area permit scoring for injuries, it also includes enhancements for sexual penetration points and sexual contact points for case involved sexual matters.
- Prior record – “any conviction for an offense committed by the offender prior to the commission of the primary offense.” It is worth noting this includes both convictions at trial and pleas. Convictions from federal court, military courts and courts from out of state are scored based on the similar sentence in Florida. If the State Attorney’s Office is unable to determine the disposition of the charge based on the criminal history, the disposition must not be scored as a part of the criminal scoresheet. Most importantly, any uncertainty or disagreement must be resolved by the sentencing judge.
- Sentencing Enhancements – Florida law allows for a variety of enhancements of a defendant’s score. For example, if the primary offense, as discussed above, occurred in violation for Florida statute §775.0823(2) also known as the Law Enforcement Protection Act, the subtotal sentencing points are multiplied by 2.5. As you can imagine, this can lead to significant increases in a defendant’s sentence.
- Total Sentence Points – “the subtotal sentence points or the enhanced subtotal sentence points.” This total gives the trial court’s lowest permissible sentence without a valid reason for a departure.
Many times, people ask how a minimum mandatory interacts with one’s scoresheet. Ultimately, if the lowest permissible sentence on the scoresheet is higher than the minimum mandatory sentence, the sentence set forth by the scoresheet will apply rather than the minimum mandatory. The minimum mandatory must be noted for purposes of the scoresheet.