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What is a felony scoresheet?

In Florida, unlike misdemeanors, Felony sentences are largely based on a scoresheet. The scoresheet has been devised by the Florida legislature to guide the State and a judge in determining an appropriate sentence for an individual.

Each offense is given a level based upon its severity; level one offenses being the lowest and level ten offenses being the highest. Each level then is assigned a certain number of points. These points also vary on whether it is a primary, additional, or prior offense. A primary offense is the highest level charge an individual is currently facing; additional offenses are those other lower level charges that an individual is facing; a prior offense is one that an individual has already been convicted of.

It is the State's responsibility to accurately calculate a scoresheet. A prosecutor will first determine the highest level offense and determine the point value. The corresponding points for additional and prior offenses are then added together to make a base score. Additional points can be added for violations of probation, victim injury, and other various aggravating factors.

After the base points are calculated, the State will then attempt to come up with what It feels is an appropriate sentence. Generally, if an individual scores under 44 points, the State will offer probation, community control, county jail, or a short prison sentence. If an individual scores more than 44 points, an additional calculation is made to determine a "bottom of the guidelines sentence". A bottom of the guidelines sentence is the minimum number of months that an individual must spend in prison based on the scoresheet calculations. Charges carrying minimum mandatory sentences are not effected by the bottom of the guidelines calculation. The State may ask for more prison time than the bottom of the guidelines calculation.

The State may also do a "departure" which is a way to offer an individual less than the bottom of the guidelines. There are specific statutory requirements that must be met in order to get a departure. These include the need for restitution, a mental illness, or substantial assistance with law enforcement. There is a catchall provision of it being a legitimate, uncoerced plea bargain if there are grounds to depart that do not quite fit one of the more specific requirements.

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