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Rick Scott, Governor
Florida Department of Corrections, Secretary Julie L. Jones

Florida Department of Corrections
Julie L. Jones, Secretary

Part II Impact

Section 6. Departures From Recommended Sentences

GOAL: Departures from the recommended sentences established in the guidelines are articulated in writing and made only when circumstances or factors reasonably justify the aggravation or mitigation of the sentence. F.S. 921.001(4)(a)6.

FACT: Of the 113,547 scoresheets received with sentence dates in FY 1996-97, the courts deviated from the guidelines structure in 13.6% of the cases (14,561 mitigated and 870 aggravated, 15,431 total deviations).

NOTES: An offender's score determines from which of three categories he will be sentenced.

  • Category 1 - Offenders scoring less than 34.8 total points fall in the non-state prison category. In this category, a prison sanction is not permitted within the guidelines structure.

  • Category 2 - Offenders scoring between 34.8 and 52.0 total points fall in the discretionary range. As the name implies, the courts have flexibility in administering either a prison or a non-prison sanction without the requirement of a reason for their decision.

  • Category 3 - In this category, offenders who score more than 52.0 total points are mandated by the guidelines to receive a state prison sanction.

However, the courts may depart from the guidelines structure if a written reason justifying the departure is provided (see sample of scoresheet with attached departure list in the Appendix). A deviation may occur in the non-state prison category (aggravation) or the state prison category (mitigation). Departure information may be recorded on the scoresheet or may be filed in writing in some other manner within 7 days of sentencing.

A true mitigation occurs when an offender scores more than 52.0 total points and either receives a non-state prison sanction or a state prison sentence length less than the 25% permissible downward discretion existing within the guidelines. A sanction mitigation occurs when an offender scores more than 52.0 total points, but receives a non-state prison sanction.


  • The true mitigation rate for those offenders who scored more than 52.0 total points was 58.9%. The sanction mitigation rate (those cases that scored to state prison but received a non-state prison sanction) was 43.8% (Table 1).

  • For the 9,729 offenders who received a mitigated state prison sentence length, the average reduction in sentence was 25.4 months (Table 1).

  • The aggravation rate for those offenders who scored in the non-state prison category was 1.4% (Table 5).

NOTE: The number of cases in many areas is extremely small. Percentages are given, but the may be misleading if numbers are less than 20.

Table 1
Mitigation Rates Among Offenders Scoring in
Recommended State Prison Sanction Category*
Fiscal Year 1996-97
Category Number Percent Average Mitigated Length in Months
Mitigated Total 14,561 58.9%  
Mitigated Sanction 10,832 43.8%  
Mitigated Length 3,729 15.1% 25.4
Not Mitigated 10,145 41.1%  
Total 24,706 100.0%  
*Total points exceeding 52.0.

Figure 1
Offenders scoring in recommended state prison sanction category: Mitigated Sanction 43.8%, Not Mitigated 41.1%, Mitigated Length 15.1%.
Figure 2
Mitigation Rates among offenders sentenced in 1996-97, Not mitigated 88.2%, Mitigated Sanction 8.8%, Mitigated Length 3.0%.
(This section continues on next page.)
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