The Degrees and Levels of Florida Felony Charges
What’s your score? If you have been charged with a felony in the State of Florida then you may have heard that question.
In Florida, every felony charge has a degree and a level. The most common three degrees are first, second and third. A third-degree felony is the lowest degree and is punishable by up to 5 years in prison and up to a $5,000.00 fine. Whereas a second-degree felony is punishable by up to 15 years in prison and up to a $10,000.00 fine, while a first degree is punishable by 30 years in prison and up to a $15,000.00 fine.
There is also a capital felony which is punishable by life in prison. The levels range from 1-9 and rank essentially the severity of the felony charge. For instance, Possession of Cannabis 20 grams or more is a third-degree felony level one, while dealing in stolen property is a second-degree felony level six. Now on a scoresheet, this levels equal points, the higher the level the more points the charge carries.
Different levels score a different amount of points in certain sections of the scoresheet. There is a section for a primary offense which is either the highest level felony offense that is pending against you if you have more than one charge, or if you only have one current charge pending than it would be scored as the primary offense. The next section is an additional offense which is where the additional charge would be scored if you had more than one charge pending against you if you have more than one case pending.
The next section is for prior history, this is where old charges can come back to haunt you, if you have any prior’s felony or misdemeanor, adjudication of guilt or received a withhold of adjudication can put scored on the scoresheet in the section. It is important to know that misdemeanor charges can be scored against you as additional offense or as prior history, a misdemeanor offense is always .2 points. If you have a felony charge and resolve it with a plea to a just a misdemeanor offense then the scoresheet would not be applicable in your case, since a misdemeanor charge is only punishable by a max of 364 days in county jail.
There are other sections of the scoresheet were points can be scored against a person for particular enhancements, for instance wearing a mask, or if a person was on probation and violated they could score either 6 or 12 points depending on the type of violation. Once all the charges are entered into the scoresheet there is a total amount of points, if that point total is 44 points or greater than the total is placed in a mathematical equation and lowest permissible prison sentence (LPS) is generated. If a person has less than 44 points but more than 22 points that person scores permissible prison, meaning essentially, they could be sentenced to prison but are also eligible for non-prison sanctions like county jail or probation. If a person has less than 22 points than they typically must be sentenced to non-prison sanctions.
Now it is possible that a person with less than 22 points could be sentenced to prison if the Judge found aggravating factors that would justify what is referred to as an upward departure, which is reverse of a downward departure. A downward departure happens when the Judge goes below the guidelines or LPS. For instances is a person had an LPS of 24 months in prison but the Judge only sentenced the person to probation then that would be a downward departure.
There are specific reason and criteria set out in the Florida statutes pertaining to downward departures and they are listed on the scoresheet as well. Some examples are a legitimate uncoerced plea deal, which means the state and defense both agree to go below the guidelines to resolve the case, another would be if a person is below a certain age they could be sentenced as a youthful offender which would justify departing from the guidelines. However, just because a person may qualify for a downward departure does not mean the Judge has to departure from an LPS.
When dealing with a felony case, it is important to hire an attorney that understands the intricacies of a scoresheet, not all prior history can be scored against you there are exceptions, what facts to qualify a person for a downward departure and so much more. This is just a very basic and brief overview of one small part of a felony case if you have any questions about your scoresheet or about your felony case plea, call Meldon Law at 352-373-8000 and we would be happy to assist.