downward departure

Post: Downward Departure in Sentencing Guidelines

downward departure

If you are convicted of a felony in Florida, the judge will determine the severity of your sentence according to the Florida Sentencing Scoresheet. The scoresheet will calculate the lowest permissible sentence you can receive unless you can demonstrate mitigating circumstances that will allow for a downward departure. The crime’s circumstances and the possibility of the offender’s rehabilitation are taken into account by the court. Sentences may include fines, probation, incarceration, or a combination.

State law ranks the severity of crimes at levels from 1 to 10. Level 1 crimes include the lowest-ranking felonies, such as petty theft and driving with a suspended license. Level 10 crimes, such as murder, are the most severe. Each of these levels is assigned a certain number of points, according to the Sentencing Scoresheet.

The score sheet includes the primary offense for which you were arrested, any additional offenses, any prior record, and any aggravating circumstances such as victim harm or use of a weapon. The total score gives a judge a range within which to determine your sentence. Generally, the higher the score, the more severe the sentence will be. The score also determines the lowest sentence the judge is permitted to hand down.

However, the law allows for a “downward departure” from the lowest permissible sentence in certain circumstances. The judge may consider mitigating circumstances that may result in a more lenient sentence. Although the list of mitigating circumstances is not very long, Florida Statute 921.0026 outlines several factors that may be considered. Here are some examples of mitigating circumstances:

  1. Cooperation with the Government: If an individual cooperates with the government to resolve the current offense or any other offense, it may be considered a mitigating circumstance.
  2. Minor Participation: If the defendant was a minor participant in the criminal conduct, their level of involvement can be considered as a mitigating factor.
  3. Unsophisticated Crime: Offenses committed in an unsophisticated manner, as isolated incidents, and accompanied by demonstrated remorse may be viewed as mitigating circumstances.
  4. Mental Health or Physical Disability: If the defendant requires specialized treatment for a mental disorder unrelated to substance abuse or addiction, or for a physical disability, it may be considered a mitigating factor.
  5. Extreme Duress or Domination: If the defendant acted under extreme duress or the domination of another person, it can be considered a mitigating circumstance.
  6. Impairment of Understanding: If the defendant had a substantial impairment in understanding the criminal nature of their conduct or the consequences of their actions, it may be considered as a mitigating factor.

It is important to note that the presence of mitigating circumstances does not automatically guarantee a departure from the sentencing guidelines. The decision to depart from the guidelines ultimately rests with the judge. That’s why it’s important to work with an experienced and aggressive criminal defense attorney.

The Downward Departure Sentencing Process

It is important to remember that the Florida Sentencing Scoresheet provides guidelines for the court’s consideration but does not dictate the final sentence. Judges have some discretion in determining the appropriate sentence, taking into account the unique circumstances of each case. But your criminal defense lawyer must submit a comprehensive motion to the court. This motion should include factual arguments, legal reasoning to support the downward departure, as well as applicable case law to back up the request. If the court finds sufficient legal justification for a downward departure supported by evidence, you may qualify for a lower sentence.

Your best chance for a downward departure is with a skilled and aggressive criminal defense attorney. The Orlando criminal defense attorneys at the Rivas Law Firm have over 120 years of combined experience and are committed to working for the best possible outcome for our clients. Call 407-644-2466 for a free consultation.

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