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Rick Scott, Governor
Florida Department of Corrections, Secretary Michael D. Crews

Florida Department of Corrections
Timothy H. Cannon, Interim Secretary

Historical Summary of Sentencing and Punishment in Florida

Florida Department of Corrections
James V. Crosby, Secretary

Prepared by:
Bureau of Research and Data Analysis
2601 Blair Stone Road
Tallahassee, Florida 32399
(850) 488-1801

March 2003

For further information contact:
David Ensley at ensley.david@mail.dc.state.fl.us or Neal Fitch at fitch.neal@mail.dc.state.fl.us.

Photo of jail cell This report provides a brief summary of the major changes that have occurred in Florida's criminal sentencing and punishment policies from 1980 to 2000. Florida has transformed the way it punishes serious criminals during this period of time. The indeterminate parole system has been replaced with the determinate, "truth-in-sentencing" policy wherein all offenders must serve a minimum of 85% of their prison sentences. The many changes in sentencing practices, gaintime policies, and early prison release mechanisms that have also occurred in the punishment system are summarized in this report.

Initiative
Description
Date of Implementation
Parole eliminated and Sentencing Guidelines implemented

Parole (in existence since 1941) was eliminated, except for capital crimes. A deterministic Sentencing Guidelines structure administered by the Supreme Court was implemented for all felony convictions. Basic gaintime reducing sentences by one-third and house arrest were also implemented.

October 1983
Crimes committed on or after this date; sentences before this date were optionally sentenced under Guidelines.

Administrative Gaintime (later called Provisional credits) implemented to prevent population from exceeding Court ordered capacity limits under Costello Agreement Lack of adequate prison space resulted in the Administrative Gaintime law, enabling the Dept. of Corrections (DC) to prevent overcrowding by increasing gaintime and therefore, inmate releases. Eligibility for gaintime was determined by current and prior crimes. Administrative Gaintime:
Feb 1987-June 1988
Provisional Credits:

July 1988-Jan 1991
Control Release:

Jan 1991-Dec 1994
Felony Habitual Offender and Violent Habitual Offender laws passed Felony offenders with two prior convictions or one prior violent offense could be sentenced to longer prison terms with less gaintime and no early prison release. October 1, 1988
Crimes committed on or after this date
Control Release Authority replaces Provisional Credits (formerly Administrative Gaintime) as early prison release mechanism Policy shifted from a non-discretionary, statutorily mandated early release eligibility program operated by the DC, to a discretionary early release program managed by the Parole Commission and requiring individual case review. January 1991
1994 Sentencing Guidelines created and gaintime reduced The 1983 Sentencing Guidelines were restructured to prioritize prison bed space. Administration of the Guidelines moved from the Supreme Court to the DC. Basic gaintime, which reduced sentences by one-third, was eliminated. January 1, 1994
Crimes committed on or after this date
Early prison release (Control Release) ends Early release credits (Control Release) discontinued because of reduction in prison admissions and a massive and accelerated prison building program. December 1994
Truth-in-Sentencing Law passes, requiring inmates to serve minimum of 85% of their court-imposed sentence The 1995 legislature passed into law the requirement that all offenders sentenced to prison must serve a minimum of 85% of their court-imposed sentence. October 1, 1995
Crimes committed on or after this date
Violent Career Criminal Act created Violent Career Criminals are offenders convicted of a Forcible Felony who had:
  • Previously been convicted of three or more Forcible Felonies and other crimes involving firearms or violence, and
  • been incarcerated in prison before, and
  • not remained crime free for at least five years.
VCC's must receive substantially longer prison terms. Eligible offenders are automatically sentenced under VCC, unless exempted by the Court.
October 1, 1995
Crimes committed on or after this date
1995 Sentencing Guidelines enhance punishments for several current and prior crimes, especially violent crimes. Recommended sentences for murder and sex offenses were enhanced considerably, along with mandatory prison sentences for offenses such as burglary of a dwelling, aggravated battery, and lewd acts on a child. Also increased the value of certain prior record and other factors in the sentencing decision. October 1, 1995
Crimes committed on or after this date
Prison Releasee Reoffender Act Offenders who commit specified violent crimes within three years of release from prison are subject to a mandatory prison sentence based on the felony degree and must serve 100% of their sentences. May 30, 1997
Crimes committed on or after this date
Criminal Punishment Code passed by the 1997 legislature - Provides discretion for any felon to receive a state prison sanction A dramatic change in sentencing policy allows for the imprisonment, up to the statutory maximum, of any felony offender, regardless of their Guidelines point level score. Lowers the previous Guidelines threshold for felons to receive a prison sentence. October 1, 1998
Crimes committed on or after this date
10-20-Life - Mandates mandatory minimum terms of imprisonment for the possession, discharge and causing injury or death with a firearm The following mandatory prison penalties apply if the following circumstances exist during the commission of specified violent or drug trafficking offenses, unless exempted through memorandum by the state attorney:
  • Possession of a firearm = 10 years
  • Possession of a semi-automatic/machine gun = 15 years
  • Discharge of a firearm (any type) = 20 years
  • Discharge with great bodily injury or death = 25 years to life
July 1, 1999
Crimes committed on or after this date
Three Strike Violent Felony Offender Act - Mandates statutory maximum sentences for repetitive violent offenders Mandates that offenders convicted of specified violent offenses that have 2 prior convictions for any such offenses shall receive the following maximum prison penalty for the offense, if the act is pursued by the state attorney:
  • 3rd degree felonies = 5 years
  • 2nd degree felonies = 15 years
  • 1st degree felonies = 30 years
  • Life felonies = Life
Also creates mandatory minimum terms of imprisonment for repeat sexual batterers, drug trafficking offenses and certain offenses committed against the elderly or law enforcement officers.
July 1, 1999
Crimes committed on or after this date