|Florida's Criminal Punishment Code:|
A Comparative Assessment (FY 1999-2000)
From a structured sentencing perspective, the Code provides for a uniform evaluation of relevant factors present at sentencing, such as the 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) to analyze 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 of the sentencing factors considered by the courts. In this report, a comparison between the 1994 Sentencing Guidelines and the Criminal Punishment Code is provided.
Since January 1, 1994, the Florida Department of Corrections has collected almost 670,000 scoresheets on felony offenders sentenced in Florida courts under the state's Sentencing Guidelines and Criminal Punishment Code. This report examines the 90,386 Criminal Punishment Code scoresheets received by the Florida Department of Corrections through September 12, 2000, for felony offenses committed on or after October 1, 1998. It also studies 56,067 1994 Sentencing Guidelines scoresheets with offense dates between October 1, 1994 and September 30, 1995 and sentence dates between July 1, 1995 and June 30, 1996 for comparison purposes.
In some cases, the 1995 Sentencing Guidelines provided for greater punishment than the 1994 Sentencing Guidelines. Some enhancements were made to the Guidelines, designed primarily to target offenders with more serious current or prior criminal records. There were a significant number of changes and the nature of the changes provided for significant effects for some offenders. However, many offenders sentenced under the 1995 Guidelines would have scored identically under the 1994 version of the law.
In May 2000, the Supreme Court revised and finalized their opinion in this case and further clarified who is eligible for re-sentencing. This decision stated that "only those persons adversely affected by the amendments made by Chapter Law 95-184 may rely on our decision here to obtain relief. Stated another way, in the guidelines context, we determine that if a person's sentence imposed under the 1995 Guidelines could have been imposed under the 1994 Guidelines (without a departure), then that person shall not be entitled to relief. "
The Supreme Court declined to rule in Heggs as to when the window period closed for offenders claiming their guidelines sentences are invalid due to the amendments contained in Chapter Law 95-184. At this time, the majority of circuit court and District Court of Appeals (DCA) cases have established that the window period opened on October 1, 1995 and closed on May 24, 1997. The remaining cases have the window opening on October 1, 1995 and closing on October 1, 1996.
Approximately 192,267 sentencing events occurred under the 1995 sentencing structure for offenses committed between October 1, 1995 and May 24, 1997, based on the Guidelines scoresheets received by the Department of Corrections through February 29, 2000. Original analysis indicated that 73,467 of these sentencing events evidenced scores adversely affected by the changes brought about in the 1995 guidelines. This analysis did not determine that the 1995 sentence was outside the range of the 1994 sentence, only that the scoresheet calculation reflected a difference in points.
Due to the potential number of re-sentencing events, it would be inaccurate to attempt to analyze and compare the 1995 sentencing guidelines to other versions of the sentencing scoresheet. As re-sentencing events occur, the original 1995 scoresheet will be replaced in the database with a 1994 scoresheet. This is necessary because the re-sentencing invalidates the original sentencing event. Likewise, the new sentence will overwrite the original sentence in DOC sentence structure and databases. A computerized record of the original sentence is not kept in the database that is used for data analysis.
As such, it is not possible to determine which scoresheets are the result of a re-sentencing or to verify that a re-sentencing event was a result of the Heggs ruling. Therefore, any analysis of this time period would yield a mixture of offenders sentenced under both the 1994 and 1995 guidelines.
For purposes of data analysis, we are excluding all scoresheets with offense dates that occur from October 1, 1995 through May 24, 1997.