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

Florida Department of Corrections
Timothy H. Cannon, Interim Secretary

Comparative Description

NOTES: This section examines the sentencing parameters point values, as follows:

  • 1994 Sentencing Guidelines:
    • Offenders scoring less than 34.8 points fall in the non-state prison category. In this category, a prison sanction is not permitted within the guidelines structure.
    • 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.
    • In this category, offenders who score more than 52.0 total points are mandated by the guidelines to receive a state prison sanction.
  • Criminal Punishment Code:
    • The Criminal Punishment Code allows for a non-state prison sanction for offenders scoring less than 44.0 total points.
    • The Code mandates state prison as the sanction, unless the sentence is mitigated, for all those offenders whose total points exceed 44.0. This means that only those offenders scoring 44 or less points may receive a non state prison sanction under the Code. All others must receive a state prison sanction, absent downward departure from this structure. The threshold under the guidelines for mandatory prison incarceration was 52 points.
For both versions, Florida Statute 921 allows for circumstances or factors that reasonably justify the downward departure of Guidelines/Code scoresheet.

Actual sanctions imposed, including state prison, community control, probation, county jail/time served, and other sanctions are presented and compared to the categories listed above.

FINDINGS:

  • Across the state, under the Code, 18% of offenders were sentenced to state prison as the most severe sanction. An additional 22.5% were sentenced to incarceration in county jail, or to time already served in jail. Almost nine percent (8.7%) were sentenced to community control, and over 50% to probation, including drug offender probation, administrative probation, and regular probation. Less than one percent of offenders were sentenced to "other" sanctions. Under the 1994 Sentencing Guidelines, 17.8% of offenders were sentenced to state prison and 19.9% were sentenced to county jail or time served. More than eleven percent (11.4%) where sentenced to community control, and 50.2% to probation. Only 0.7% of the offenders were sentenced to "other" sanctions (Table 1).

  • Almost eight out of ten of the 90,386 Code scoresheets examined (62,512 scoresheets or 76.9%) scored less than 44 points (Table 1). These scoresheets represent sentencing events where the judge has the discretion to sentence the offender to either a non-state prison sanction or a state prison sanction. If the judge chooses to sentence the offender to state prison, the judge has the discretion to sentence the offender up to the statutory maximum of the law. In the case of the 1994 Sentencing Guidelines, there were 15,370 (27.4%) offenders scoring between 34.8 and 52 points, the point range in which the court has the discretion to provide a non-state prison sanction or a prison sanction. Also, 29,996 (53.5%) offenders scored 34.8 points or less, these offenders must receive a non-state prison sanction under the guidelines (Table 1).

  • Under the Code, of the offenders scoring in the recommended state prison category, over 57% were sentenced to state prison, with another 9.9% sentenced to county jail or time served. Of those in scoring less than 44 points, just over 6% were sentenced to state prison, and another 26.3% to county jail/time served. Under the 1994 Sentencing Guidelines, six out of ten offenders scoring above 52 points were sentenced to state prison (60.6%) and another 6.5% of these offenders were sentenced to county jail or time served. Almost nineteen percent of offenders scoring between 34.8 and 52 points were sentenced to state prison (18.9%), while 21.6% were sentenced to county jail or time served (Table 1).

  • Table 2 presents the scoring distribution of offenders under the Code and under the 1994 Sentencing Guidelines by the circuit and sanction imposed. Circuit 11 (Miami) shows the highest percentage of scoresheets scoring to the state prison sanction at 91.9% and 80%, respectively. Circuit 4 (Jacksonville) has the lowest percentage of state prison scoring offenders under the Punishment Code (54.3%), while under the 1994 Sentencing Guidelines, circuit 17 (Ft. Lauderdale) had the lowest percentage of state prison scoring offenders at 49.6%.

  • Incarceration rates vary greatly by county and circuit. Jail sanctions also vary greatly depending on number of beds available and judicial inclination to use the jail sanction. Table 3 presents the distribution of sanction imposed by circuit and county. Although variance in sentencing does exists at the circuit and county level based on the judge involved, variability in the statistics presented in this table could also be as a result of differences in the type of offenders being sentenced around the state. There are also very small numbers of scoresheets for some of the counties listed in this table. The incarceration rates for counties with less than 100 scoresheets could possibly be misleading.

  • Within the Code policy, a true mitigation occurs when an offenders scores more than 44 total points (52 total points in the case of the 1994 Sentencing Guidelines) and either receives a non-state prison sanction or a state prison sentence length below the 25% permissible discretion. A sanction mitigation occurs when an offender scores more than 44 total points (52 total points for the 1994 Sentencing Guidelines), but receives an non-state prison sanction.

  • Under the Code, the true mitigation rate for offenders that scored more than 44 total points is 55.5%. The sanction mitigation rate (cases that scored to state prison but received a non-state prison sanction) was 42.5%. Under the 1994 Sentencing Guidelines, the true mitigation rate for offenders scoring more than 52 total points was 55.0%, while the sanction mitigation rate was 39.4% (Table 11).

  • For the offenders that received a mitigated prison sentence length, the average reduction in sentence was 24.6 months under the Code, and 16.4 months under the 1994 Sentencing Guidelines (Table 11).

  • Departure, as defined here, is not a comment on the legality of the sentence. There are many reasons for departure which are recognized as legitimate under Florida Statute 921. In addition, other Statutes, such as F. S. 948.034, establish special conditions allowing for departures from recommended sentences. Database limitations do not allow us to isolate all these reasons for departure.

Table 1 Recommended Sanction Category by Sanction Imposed

Sanction Imposed 1994 Sentencing Guidelines Criminal Punishment Code
Recommended Sanction Category Recommended Sanction Category
34.8 Points or Less Between 34.8 and 52 Points More than 52 Points Total 44.0 Points or Less More than 44.0 Points Total
State Prison 585 2,903 6,480 9,968 4,268 12,007 16,275
2.0% 18.9% 60.6% 17.8% 6.1% 57.5% 18.0%
Community Control 2,386 2,592 1,436 6,414 5,667 2,168 7,835
8.0% 16.9% 13.4% 11.4% 8.2% 10.4% 8.7%
Probation 19,626 6,456 2,049 28,131 40,718 4,532 45,250
65.4% 42.0% 19.1% 50.2% 58.6% 21.7% 50.1%
County Jail 7,137 3,316 692 11,145 18,311 2,058 20,369
23.8% 21.6% 6.5% 19.9% 26.3% 9.9% 22.5%
Other 262 103 44 409 548 109 657
0.9% 0.7% 0.4% 0.7% 0.8% 0.5% 0.7%
Total 29,996 15,370 10,701 56,067 69,512 20,874 90,386
100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 100.0%

Sanction Imposed for offenders scoring in the state prison sanction category.  State Prison 55%, Comm. Control 9%, Probation 20%, County Jail 8%, Other 1%.