Florida Punishment Code

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Florida’s Punishment Code, and

“Minimum Mandatory” Penalties for certain crimes

Sandefer Law Firm – Serving Clearwater, St. Petersburg, Tampa Bay, and the State of Florida

*  Over 30 Years Criminal Courtroom Experience
*  Former Division Director and Lead Trial Lawyer
*  Over 5000 Criminal Cases Handled
*  Hundreds of Jury Trials as Lead or Sole Counsel

In the State of Florida there are various degrees of crimes. Most are generally classified as felonies or misdemeanors. Felony charges are of varying degrees with differing consequences.
third degree felony carries a maximum of 5 years in prison. It may carry a lesser sentence or probation.

second degree felony carries a maximum of 15 years in prison and may also carry a lesser sentence or probation.

first degree felony carries a maximum of 30 years in prison but may also carry a lesser sentence of even probation. A first degree felony punishable by life carries up to a life sentence but may carry a lesser sentence and may also carry probation. A life sentence carries a sentence of life imprisonment with no parole and no other possibility. A capital felony carries either a mandatory life sentence or the penalty of death. This would be in the case of a first degree murder or a capital sexual battery.

Florida has also passed laws regarding the use of firearms and sentencing. The 10-20-life law calls for minimum mandatory sentences when firearms are used in certain crimes. The PRR (Recent Prison Releasee) sentencing also calls for mandatory prison sentences as does the Habitual Felony Offender Statute (HFO)Trafficking laws also carry certain minimum mandatory sentences from 3 to 25 years. Other sentencing is subject to Florida punishment code. Sentencing code sentencing is a scoring mechanism where certain types of past and present charges are assigned scores and certain minimum sentences may apply.

Even if a minimum sentence applies it may be possible to request a Judge to “depart” from the guideline sentence and give a lesser sentence if certain statutory or non-statutory mitigating factors may apply.   If your case ‘scores out’ to a prison sentence we can discuss with you alternatives and strategies to depart from the sentencing code that may apply to your particular case.   Also, other sentencing options may apply to your case such as drug court or even a diversion program which can result in your case not proceeding to court and ultimately in a dismissal of a charge without having to proceed to trial.

Other sentencing alternatives to consider include youthful offender status (up to age 21) and also sentence back options for juveniles in the adult system, those persons under 18 but charged as an adult.  Juveniles may  be ‘certified’ as adults and face adult sentencing.

Often a Judge can Withhold Adjudication.  Adjudication Withheld means it does not count as a conviction even though you may have entered a plea and been sentenced.  Not all charges qualify for a withholding of adjudication.  If you have no other convictions most cases where adjudication was withheld will allow you to file to have your arrest record sealed.

Even if the charge you are facing carries certain minimum sentences, there may be ways to change or avoid those minimums. Every case is different. Every person is different. We have over 30 years of experience behind us,  from both sides.  We are here to help you!  Call us.  The consultation is at no charge and is in the strictest of confidence. 

It is important for you to consult with an experienced attorney to discuss ways in which your case may be handled and whether it is possible to have your record later sealed or expunged and defenses or what sentencing alternatives may apply to your particular situation.

Mandatory Minimum Sentencing Cases such as Drug Trafficking, 10-20-LIFE, and Habitual Offender Statues

Florida legislators have continued to pass tougher laws on sentencing for certain types of offenses. Any use of a firearm in the commission of a crime will probably fall under the law requiring a minimum of 10 years in prison for possessing the gun, 20 years for firing one, and mandatory life for use of a gun where someone is wounded. These are minimum requirements. It is important to explore all possible defenses and aggressively approach these cases from a defense standpoint. It is important to know that there may still be ways to avoid the minimum sentence even upon a plea in some cases. The age of the offender is one of those instances.



Florida statutes explain and set out how to calculate a score for any criminal charge.  You will need to score the primary charge as well as other pending charges. Prior convictions including misdemeanors are also scored.  Injury and other things can add to the scores.  Some charges are enhanced and may not be obvious in reading the sentencing code statute, but you should be able to get an idea of what the minimum sentence may be.  I would not rely on your own scoring because of other things that may apply to the scoring as well as the facts of the case.  Please call us and come in to go over the presumptive and minimum sentence that may apply in your case as well as reasons that may allow a Judge to depart from that sentence minimum.   Florida statutes that apply to the sentence on a felony charge are FS 921.002, FS 921.0021, FS 921.0022, FS 921.0023, AND FS 921.0024.


Drug Courts

Pinellas, Pasco, and Hillsborough Counties as well as most counties in the state of Florida now have drug courts. Certain cases may qualify for entry in to drug court which focuses on recovery and treatment instead of punishment. You may qualify or be able to be qualified if that is a good option in your case. Not all cases are best served in drug court, but if yours is, completion of court could result in no conviction of the charge or charges. Sandefer Law Firm can assist you in obtaining an assessment and with entry in to drug court as well as helping you proceed through the drug court process and completion.

Often for cases that are not appropriate for or qualified for drug court we may still direct you to an appropriate counselor or evaluator that can only assist you by assist us in resolving your case it the best possible manner.

Diversion or Dismissal of Charges or Avoiding a Conviction on Your Record

Please talk with us about Diversion Programs which may be available to you and can result in the dismissal of charges without trial.

Also ask us:

  •            If a Withholding of Adjunction is possible which may allow a plea  but no conviction.    Is that something we many want to pursue?
  •            Can you get your arrest sealed or expunged?

These are only some of the questions we can answer for you.

Mental Health, Drug, and Rehabilitation Referral

It may also be advisable for you to enroll in certain types of classes such as anger management or family violence before going to court. We can direct you to the person and program best suited for your needs and your case. Sandefer Law Firm can also match your needs with specific outpatient or residential drug program referrals as may be suggested for your particular situation or needs.

Over thirty years of trial and courtroom experience gives us the ability to assess your case and provide you with access to the resources we need to help you.