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A Brief History of Florida Criminal Sentencing

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Federal crimes have specific punishments that are set by the central government. Though federal crimes are tried within the states, these Washington-mandated laws are what govern the trial and sentencing. Most criminal cases, however, involve state laws, and therefore state regulations govern criminal sentencing. A good Broward County criminal lawyer is highly familiar with Florida state law, standard sentences for criminal convictions, and mitigating circumstances for convictions.

As a Broward County criminal lawyer can tell you, Florida criminal law and sentencing standards have changed over the years. Prior to 1983, a set of standards was set in place that attempted to create uniformity in sentencing and to ensure that punishments matched the severity of the crime. Legal experts found that these standards were not successful, and in 1983, a legal overhaul created the 1983 Sentencing Guidelines. All offenses were placed into one of nine criminal categories such as murder, drug crimes, and sex crimes. These guidelines became outdated, and legal experts felt that the integrity of the rules had become compromised. In part, this was due to an outbreak of crack cocaine that resulted in overcrowding in criminal facilities.

In 1994, another reformation was put into practice. This overhaul ranked crimes in 10 categories according to severity. Each category had an assigned numerical point value, which could be increased based on prior criminal record and previous offenses. A criminal conviction with 40 points or less resulted in a non-state prison sanction. Crimes with point values between 40 and 52 resulted in discretionary prison or a non-state prison sanction. A score greater than 52 gave criminals a state prison sanction. This system was largely motivated by a desire to cut down on overcrowding in state prisons. The following year, this system was again revised with the Crime Control Act of 1995. Though the basic system remained in place, point values were raised on a number of crimes.

In 1998, legal experts reformed criminal sentencing once more, creating the Criminal Punishment Code. This system is still adhered to in Florida, and a Broward County criminal lawyer should be extremely familiar with its mandates. Under these new guidelines, the only convictions that receive non-state prison sanctions are those with a point value of 44 or less; everyone else receives a state prison sanction. These guidelines also state mandatory incarceration terms for felonies. A third-degree felony results in up to five years in prison. A second-degree felony results in up to 15 years, and a first-degree felony results in up to 30. Those convicted of a life felony could be sentenced to prison for life.

A Broward County criminal lawyer is well-versed in these standards, but he also knows how to fight for a lesser sentence. First of all, he will attempt to prove your innocence. If you are convicted or you choose to plead guilty, he knows the mitigating circumstances that can get you a much lighter punishment.

Leader & Leader, PA, is an experienced, aggressive Fort Lauderdale criminal defense law firm that has a breadth of experience with drug laws and other criminal charges in Florida. With more than 68 years combined experience, a Broward County criminal lawyer will defend you against drug charges and other criminal charges from pre-case filing efforts to trial and appeal, if necessary. We serve Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, and Monroe counties in state and federal court criminal matters. For more information, visit or call 954.523.2020. Initial consultations available 24 hours, 7 days a week via telephone.

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