Sentencing occurs after a finding of guilt has been made (be it by a Judge or a Jury, after a trial or by way of an “open” plea) and, oftentimes, proves to be more complex than a trial.
In Florida “sentencing” is accomplished by way of the “Sentencing Guidelines” as established in the “Criminal Punishment Code”. The theory is that each case (including each case’s unique factors) is “valued” on a variety of measurable scales and the Guidelines (which are essentially a mathematic formula) calculation results in the computation of a non-biased yet custom tailored “permissible sentencing range” within which the Judge is free to exercise her/his discretion and outside of which (up or down) s/he must adequately and lawfully explain her/his ruling. But the reality is that this cold and impersonal formula is not always fair to a given Defendant in a given case.
Factors that the Judge must consider include the “primary offense” (the most serious offense charged), any “additional offenses” (any lesser or equal charges faced), the level of “victim injury” (the actual harm suffered by the victim), “prior record” (any properly score able prior criminal offenses), “legal status” (whether or not one was under any lawful sanction or requirement at the time), and a variety of other “enhancers” for such things as firearms, prior “serious” felonies, drug trafficking, law enforcement protection act violations, grand theft of a motor vehicle, gang related activities and domestic violence cases which occur in the presence of children. Each of these factors has a “point value” which must be determined and when the points are all added together the sum is used to computate the “lowest permissible prison sentence in months” or the “low end” of the guidelines) below which the Judge cannot depart without clearly stated legal reasons.
The Judge can enhance / “bump up” (or “reclassify”) a given offense from a lower to a higher level and in some circumstances the Judge “must” do so (i.e. where a Defendant is a Habitual or a Prison Release ReOffender) and sometimes “minimum mandatory” prison terms must be imposed (i.e. for drug trafficking).
The Judge is also permitted to find “mitigating circumstance” and thereby lawfully depart downward from the calculated sentencing guidelines. However, in order for any of the statutory mitigators to apply they must first be specifically pled and proven by the Defendant (and of course the State will be afforded an opportunity to disprove or to raise doubt as to the same). Some accepted mitigating factors are that the departure is made at the request of the State and defense jointly in the form of a plea bargain, the Defendant only committed the offense because of extreme duress or the dominance of another person, or because the Defendant suffers from a major mental illness.
At Michael A. Haber, P.A. we take noting for granted, adopting a comprehensive / global view of all criminal cases which pays careful attention to potential sentencing issues right up front. As early as during an initial consultation Michael A. Haber, Esq. will look to identify any possible mitigation issues, and during the course of representation Michael A. Haber, Esq. will simultaneously work toward acquittal and reducing the client’s exposure. If evidence is needed (be it documents or expert witnesses) then we will identify and acquire it.
At Michael A. Haber, P.A. we’re “in it to win it” and “it’s all about reasonable doubt”!