Downward Departure Sentence in Florida

Under Florida law, a person convicted of a felony must be sentenced pursuant to the Florida Criminal Punishment Code (CPC). If a person scores prison under the Criminal Punishment Code, a judge must sentence the person to prison unless the court finds valid grounds for a downward departure.

The decision to depart from the minimum sentence mandated by the Criminal Punishment Code is a two part process. [FN1] First, the court must decide whether there is evidence of mitigating circumstances that would support a downward departure sentence. The second step requires the court to determine whether it should impose a downward departure sentence.

Importantly, imposing a downward departure sentence is entirely a discretionary decision. Meaning that even if a judge finds evidence supporting a downward departure, the judge is not required to impose a downward departure sentence.

Mitgating Factors

Florida Statute 921.0026(2) provides a list of mitigating circumstances under which a downward departure sentence is justified. These mitigating circumstances are as follows:

  1. The departure results from a legitimate, uncoerced plea bargain.
  2. The defendant was an accomplice to the offense and was a relatively minor participant in the criminal conduct.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. The need for payment of restitution to the victim outweighs the need for a prison sentence.
  6. The victim was an initiator, willing participant, aggressor, or provoker of the incident.
  7. The defendant acted under extreme duress or under the domination of another person.
  8. Before the identity of the defendant was determined, the victim was substantially compensated.
  9. The defendant cooperated with the state to resolve the current offense or any other offense.
  10. The offense was committed in an unsophisticated manner and was an isolated incident for which the defendant has shown remorse.
  11. At the time of the offense the defendant was too young to appreciate the consequences of the offense.
  12. The defendant is to be sentenced as a youthful offender.
  13. 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 postadjudicatory treatment-based drug court program and is otherwise qualified to participate in the program as part of the sentence.
  14. The defendant was making a good faith effort to obtain or provide medical assistance for an individual experiencing a drug-related overdose.

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  1. Banks v. State, 732 So. 2d 1065 (Fla. 1999)