Section 1. Overview of Florida Sentencing Guidelines
What are Sentencing Guidelines?
The Florida Sentencing Guidelines represent the state's structured policy with respect to the sentencing of non-capital felony offenders. There are three distinct versions of the guidelines currently in operation in Florida. They all:
History of Sentencing Guidelines
Before Sentencing Guidelines
Florida Sentencing Guidelines first became effective on October
1, 1983. Prior to that time, courts sentenced in accordance
with provisions of law that permitted a wide range of judicial
discretion in the sentencing decision. Sanctions ranged from
a minimum of a fine, up to state prison incarceration. The
statutory maximum penalties of incarceration in state prison
This was a form of indeterminate sentencing policy because
most offenders sentenced to prison were, by law, parole eligible.
Parole was a discretionary early release policy which obviously
had a significant impact upon both the percentage and the
actual amount of time served.
The 1983 Sentencing Guidelines
Due to concerns regarding actual and percent of time served
as well as concerns regarding a lack of uniformity in sentencing,
the 1983 Florida Sentencing Guidelines were enacted October
1, 1983 and parole eligibility was abolished for almost all
offenses committed after that date. These guidelines are currently
in effect for:
The 1983 guidelines structure was comprised of nine separate
worksheets for specified offense categories. All offenses
were contained in one of these categories:
Within each worksheet, points were assessed for offenses to be sentenced and prior record offenses based on the number of offenses and each offense's felony degree. Assessments were also made for legal status and victim injury. Total scores fell into sentencing ranges or cells, for each worksheet. The least severe cell provided for a non-state prison sanction and the most severe cell provided for 27 years to life in prison. Departure sentences were permissible as long as written reasons were provided.
Several factors eventually eroded the integrity of the "truth in sentencing" aspect of the 1983 sentencing guidelines. Some of these factors included:
As a result of these and other factors, the percentage of time served and actual time served declined. By 1989, the average percent of time served was 34%. This lack of system integrity was the impetus for the creation of a new sentencing guidelines structure.
The 1994 Sentencing Guidelines
The 1994 sentencing guidelines were enacted through the passage
of the "Safe Streets Act". These sentencing guidelines
are in effect for all non-capital felony offenses committed
on or after January 1, 1994 and before October 1, 1995. The
focus of these guidelines is to:
The structure of the 1994 sentencing guidelines has little similarity to the 1983 structure. The 1994 structure attempted to resolve some of the problems inherent in the preceding structure, such as the nine separate worksheets, the lack of offense-specific detail, and the issue of grouping crimes by category. The structure of the 1994 guidelines:
Other policy levels of the guidelines include an assessment of points for:
Under the 1994 structure, the total guidelines score determines the guidelines sanction and a range of state prison months, if applicable. There are basically three categories of sanction based upon total scores. The scores may:
The sentencing parameters point values operate as follows: