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

Florida Department of Corrections
Timothy H. Cannon, Interim Secretary

Florida's Criminal Punishment Code: A Descriptive Assessment

Offenses Committed On or After October 1, 1998

Executive Summary

In 1997, the Florida legislature created a new sentencing structure, the Florida Criminal Punishment Code ("Code"). The Criminal Punishment Code is Florida's primary sentencing policy. It is unique in that it has features of both structured and unstructured sentencing policies. From a structured sentencing perspective, the Code provides for a uniform evaluation of relevant factors present at sentencing, such as offense before the court for sentencing, prior criminal record, victim injury and others. It also provides for a lowest permissible sentence that the court must impose in any given sentencing event.

The Code also contains characteristics of unstructured sentencing such as broad judicial discretion and the allowance for the imposition of lengthy terms of incarceration. The Code is effective for offenses committed on or after October 1, 1998 and is unlike the state's preceding sentencing guidelines, which provided for narrow ranges of permissible sentences in all non-capital sentencing events.

The intent of this report is to address the requirement set forth in Florida Statutes 921.002(4)(a) of analyzing sentencing events under the Florida Criminal Punishment Code. Each year, the Department of Corrections is required to report on trends in sentencing practices and sentencing score thresholds and provide an analysis on the sentencing factors considered by the courts. However, because of the short time between when this law went into effect and when the report is due, a true and accurate assessment of the Code impact at this time is impossible. The average length of time that passes from the date an offender commits a crime to the date the offender is sentenced for that crime is 9.6 months. As expected, as the seriousness and severity of the crime increases, the average "lag" time increases. Currently, the Punishment Code sentencing events that have taken place since October 1, 1998, are skewed more heavily by the less serious offenses. Evaluating the impact of the Code at this point in time would provide an unrealistic view of the nature of criminal behavior and court sentencing behavior.

With the lag issue in mind, this report will focus on descriptive statistics of the Punishment Code sentencing events.

Since January 1, 1994, the Florida Department of Corrections has collected almost 550,000 scoresheets on felony offenders sentenced in Florida courts under the state's Sentencing Guidelines and Criminal Punishment Code. This report examines the 36,818 Criminal Punishment Code scoresheets received by the Florida Department of Corrections through August 30, 1999, for felony offenses committed on or after October 1, 1998. This report also includes an examination of 119,001 1994 and 1995 Sentencing Guidelines offender scoresheets sentenced in FY 1997-98 for comparison purposes.