In Florida, anyone convicted of a felony crime is required to receive the “mandatory minimum” sentence for the crime according to the Florida Criminal Punishment Code. (To find out what the mandatory minimum sentence is for a felony crime in Florida, visit our free Florida Felony Sentencing Calculator.) However, there are quite a few mitigating factors that may qualify you for a “downward departure” sentence in Florida.
What is a downward departure?
A “downward departure” is when a judge decides to depart from the mandatory minimum sentence and give the defendant a lesser sentence.
How does downward departure work in Florida?
If the Florida Criminal Punishment Code states that a person should score prison, they must be sentenced to prison—unless the court has found valid grounds for a downward departure.
What are the steps to getting a downward departure sentence?
There are two important steps to departing from the minimum sentences required by the Criminal Punishment Code:
- The court must determine if there is evidence of mitigating circumstances that would support a downward departure sentence.
- The court must decide if it should impose a downward departure sentence.
The decision to impose a downward departure sentence is entirely at the discretion of the judge. In other words, the judge is not required to impose a downward departure sentence even if they find evidence to support one.
Mitigating Factors for a Downward Departure Sentence
Florida Statute 921.0026 provides the circumstances under which a downward departure sentence is reasonably justifiable. Those mitigating circumstances include, but are not limited to:
- The departure results from a legitimate, uncoerced plea bargain.
- The defendant was an accomplice to the offense and was a relatively minor participant in the criminal conduct.
- The capacity of the defendant to appreciate the criminal nature of the conduct or to conform that conduct to the requirements of law was substantially impaired.
- The defendant requires specialized treatment for a mental disorder that is unrelated to substance abuse or addiction or for a physical disability, and the defendant is amenable to treatment.
- The need for payment of restitution to the victim outweighs the need for a prison sentence.
- The victim was an initiator, willing participant, aggressor, or provoker of the incident.
- The defendant acted under extreme duress or under the domination of another person.
- Before the identity of the defendant was determined, the victim was substantially compensated.
- The defendant cooperated with the state to resolve the current offense or any other offense.
- The offense was committed in an unsophisticated manner and was an isolated incident for which the defendant has shown remorse.
- At the time of the offense the defendant was too young to appreciate the consequences of the offense.
- The defendant is to be sentenced as a youthful offender.
- The defendant’s offense is a nonviolent felony, the defendant’s Criminal Punishment Code scoresheet total sentence points under s. 921.0024 are 60 points or fewer, and the court determines that the defendant is amenable to the services of a post-adjudicatory treatment-based drug court program and is otherwise qualified to participate in the program as part of the sentence. For purposes of this paragraph, the term “nonviolent felony” has the same meaning as provided in s. 948.08(6).
- The defendant was making a good faith effort to obtain or provide medical assistance for an individual experiencing a drug-related overdose.
How a Criminal Lawyer Can Help
If you, or a loved one, have been arrested for a felony crime in Florida, you need the assistance of an experienced criminal attorney to get the best possible result for your case. At Aaron Delgado & Associates, our team of experienced criminal defense attorneys can help you better understand the mandatory minimum sentence you may be facing and guide you through the best route for your defense.
Call a Daytona Beach Trial Attorney Today
If you need a trial attorney in the Daytona Beach area or near one of our other locations, please do not hesitate to call us. Our criminal defense team is available 24/7 at 386-222-6677 to schedule your free initial consultation with an experienced trial attorney.