The Florida Criminal Code provides that a felony is an offense punishable by imprisonment in a state prison for a term of more than one year. They are classified into five categories:
- Capital felony
- Life felony
- Felony of the first degree
- Felony of the second degree
- Felony of the third degree
A person convicted of a capital felony murder can be sentenced to death if in the “penalty phase” of the trial the judge, based on the evidence heard, determines that the death penalty should be imposed. Capital felony sexual battery and certain capital trafficking offenses are punishable by life imprisonment.
Florida’s sentencing structure is complicated because various criteria contained in the criminal code can result in reclassifying a felony from a lower level to a higher one and increasing the length of a sentence. For the sake of clarity and simplicity here, felony sentencing is basically as follows:
(A) A life felony is punishable by imprisonment for life.
(B) A felony of the first degree is punishable by imprisonment up to 30 years unless the statute defining the crime provides a specific term of years not exceeding life.
(C) For a felony of the second degree, the term of imprisonment may not exceed 15 years.
(D) For a felony of the third degree, imprisonment may not exceed five years.
The Criminal Punishment Code has created severity levels for each criminal offense. There are ten levels of punishment ranging from the least severe (Level 1 offenses) to the highest (Level 10 offenses). The length of a specific sentence is determined by the level of the offense plus various criteria that must be taken into account by the judge in fixing any sentence. The criteria have “sentencing points” attached to them ranging from the least serious factors to be considered to the most serious ones. The total sentencing points specify the number of years a sentence shall carry.
The criteria the judge must consider include: a) the seriousness of the highest offense the defendant is convicted of (called the “primary” offense); b) any charges the defendant is convicted of in addition to the primary offense; c) the degree of any injury suffered by a victim; and (d) the offender’s prior record. There are other criteria that increase the sentence based on use of a firearm in committing the crime, whether the defendant’s record includes prior serious offenses, and whether or not he was on probation or community control at the time of the offense.
Fines are $15,000 for a life felony; $10,000 for a first or second-degree felony; $5,000 for a felony of the third degree. Again, special circumstances may increase these basic fines.
It is important to note that the sentencing information provided herein is very basic and intended only to provide the reader with a rough guide to sentencing law. Many statutes are involved in sentencing, which make presenting a clear and comprehensive explanation of them all here impractical.
Sentencing possibilities cannot be omitted from any serious decision regarding going to trial or when considering a plea offer. It takes an experienced attorney to understand the various laws in play and to explain them to you clearly. The formulation of a defense strategy in a case requires discussion with the defendant of the possible sentences that could apply.
Our firm has over 100 years of combined experience in criminal law and each client who comes to us will receive all the information he or she must have to understand the criminal code and the sentencing guidelines. Call today to schedule your free consultation (321) 631-0506.