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What are victim injury points relating to a Florida scoresheet?

The specific Florida law providing for victim injury points can be found under Florida Statute Section 921.0021.  Tampa criminal lawyers are often asked about victim injury points when discussing scoresheets under Florida’s current sentencing structure.  In short, these are points that can be added which inflate and increase the potential minimum score for a criminal defendant.  Our blog article discusses several of the most important critical factors to consider when determining whether your scoresheet has been properly prepared and/or potential ways to reduce that scoresheet.

It is critical first to point out that there are three specific types of victim injury points relating solely to physical injury.  They are severe, which constitutes 40 points, moderate, which provides 18 points and slight, which is only 4 points.  The determination as to whether to include these victim/injury points are to the sound discretion of the trial court which does the sentencing of the defendant.  It’s also worth noting the standard on appeal is that there must be evidence in the record to support the finding. This is obviously a very low standard and provides trial courts a significant amount of discretion as to whether to include these enhancements in the sentencing of a criminal defendant.  Ultimately though, as we’ve discussed elsewhere on our Tampa criminal lawyer blog, the overwhelming majority of cases are resolved through a plea bargain, and these victim injury points can be negotiated just like everything else in a criminal case as part of plea negotiations with the State Attorney’s Office.

Secondly, these victim injury points must be a direct result of either the primary or additional offenses.  As we discuss elsewhere on our Tampa criminal lawyer blog, the primary offense charged on the score sheet is the highest level offense of those alleged against the defendant.  For an injury to be a direct result of the primary offense there must be causal nexus between the crime alleged and the injury.  Obviously, this causal nexus must provide some sort of relationship between the injury and the alleged crime.  The easiest way to think of this example is in a felony possession of marijuana case, it’s hard to believe that there would be some injury derived from that charge.  While in an aggravated battery case, it’s easy to imagine moderate or even severe injury points being assessed because of the injuries to the alleged victim.

Lastly, it’s important to highlight several things about victim injury points to keep in mind when determining whether your scoresheet was prepared properly.  Victim injury points are not permitted to be assessed where the charging document doesn’t allege some sort of crime against the victim’s person.  It doesn’t necessarily have to be direct, but the information/indictment against the defendant must allege some sort of crime against a person.  Generally, this is not an issue because for the overall majority of charges, it’s required on the information itself.  If the State/Prosecution doesn’t allege the proper allegations within the information itself, your Tampa criminal lawyer should move to dismiss that information or indictment through what is called a (c)(4) Motion to Dismiss under the Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure.  It’s also worth noting that victim injury points can only be assessed for injuries to a victim, not self-inflicted injuries to a criminal defendant.  For example, in an aggravated battery case, a criminal defendant can only be assessed injury points for those injuries relating to the victim. so if a defendant punched a victim in the face causing severe injury, they can also not be assessed for the broken knuckles in their own hands relating from the punch.

The same victim injury points can be assessed against multiple codefendants in a case if multiple codefendants are involved.  This is very confusing for individuals because most folks believe this is a violation of either their due process or double jeopardy since  essentially the same victim is being counted against multiple defendants, but currently Florida law permits it.  Lastly and arguably most importantly, these injury points and other enhancements on a scoresheet cannot enhance one’s sentence over the statutory maximum unless the defendant , himself or herself, waives certain constitutional safeguards, which we discuss elsewhere on our Tampa criminal lawyer blog.

If you have questions concerning your Tampa criminal case or victim injury points being added to a Florida scoresheet, contact the Tampa criminal lawyers of Hackworth Law for a free case consultation.  We’ve handled thousands of criminal cases throughout the entire Tampa Bay area and will sit down and work with you to determine an effective and efficient strategy to protect your rights and ensure your best interests are looked out for.  If you would like to contact one of our Tampa criminal lawyers immediately, please use the “contact us now” tab in the upper right-hand corner of our website.  We appreciate your time and attention and look forward to working with you in the near future.