I’ll be honest. In most cases, if you score 44 points or more under the Florida Criminal Punishment Code Scoresheet, any plea bargain will result in a prison sentence. The prosecutors in Okaloosa County almost never agree to a non-prison sentence for someone with more than 44 points, and the Judges are reluctant to do so as well.
There is a legal way for the Judge to deviate, or depart, from the guidelines and impose a lighter sentence, however. This is the Downward Departure.
In order for the Judge to issue a Downward Departure sentence, he must find that one of the following applies to your case:
- Legitimate, uncoerced plea bargain
- 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 law was substantially impaired
- Defendant requires specialized treatment for a mental disorder that is unrelated to substance abuse or addiction and is amenable to treatment
- The need for restitution outweighs the need for a prison sentence
- The victim was an initiator, willing participant, aggressor, or provoker of the incident
- Defendant acted under extreme duress or under the domination of another person
- Before the defendant’s identity was determined, victim was substantially compensated
- 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
- Defendant was too young to appreciate the consequences of the offense
- Defendant is to be sentenced as a youthful offender
- Defendant is amenable to a post-adjudicatory treatment-based drug court program and is otherwise qualified to participate in the program
- Defendant was making a good faith effort to obtain or provide medical assistance for an individual experiencing a drug-related overdose
Even if the Judge finds that you meet one or more of the criteria, he or she still has the authority to deny the Downward Departure and sentence you according to the guidelines.
It is my job as your criminal defense attorney to show the Judge which of the above criteria you meet in order to qualify for the Downward Departure. I will also do everything possible to convince the Judge that you deserve a second chance to stay out of prison.
My number one job at Flaherty & Merrifield is to keep my clients out of jail/prison. I have developed techniques and strategies over the years to try and accomplish that goal. Making an effective argument for a Downward Departure is one of them.
If you are being charged with a felony in Okaloosa County and you’re worried about going to prison, give Flaherty & Merrifield a call today at (850) 243-6097. We’ll be glad to review your case with you and give you an honest and realistic opinion about your options and what strategies we would use to defend you.