Florida‘s Punishment Code
In 1988 The Florida Legislature enacted The Florida Sentencing Guidelines following the lead of the Federal government’s Sentencing Guidelines. The Legislature hoped to rationalize sentences by creating an arithmetical formula for sentencing and limited judicial discretion. Now, someone convicted of drug trafficking, or possession of cocaine, or even a probation violation, would be sentenced the same throughout the State of Florida. South Florida sends the greatest number of people to prison and has been studied for the similarity of sentencing. The sentencing guidelines, now called the Punishment Code lists each crime, from assault to witness tampering, assigns it a category or range and requires judges to sentence in accord with the punishment code. There was, and remains, at outcry against the punishment code for two reasons: firstly racial minorities are statistically over-represented in the prison population and the punishment code continues that disparity. Secondly, the individual’s need for punishment by prison sentence precludes a judge’s ability to fashion punishments that are not compliant with the legislative scheme: this often creates over-harsh sentencing and injustices. A Judge can be harsher than the code but cannot go under the code unless the judge follows a limited and prescribed number of reasons for a downward departure. Your South Florida criminal defense lawyer can explain to you the system for scoring and computing felony sentences in Florida.