Florida Sentencing Laws
Hire a West Palm Beach Attorney to Negotiate Your Criminal Sentence
Florida has its own set of sentencing guidelines for certain criminal charges. If you have been charged with a crime, it is likely you may receive penalties as small as fines to consequences as severe as significant jail time. One of the most important things to do is to immediately seek legal counsel. An experienced defense attorney like Nellie L. King can either negotiate a reasonable sentence and thus avoid a long hearing or argue for as minimal penalties as possible. As a former public defender, Attorney King will represent your case holistically and ensure that the facts of your charge are heard and reasonably addressed.
Elements of a Criminal Sentence
In Florida, a criminal sentence consists of a written judgment regarding the person’s guilty conviction and a sentencing order outlining the penalties the person will have to serve. The terms and conditions that a judge will impose at a sentencing hearing will depend on whether the defendant has:
- Entered a negotiated plea
- Entered an open plea
- Returned a guilty verdict
The sentencing for a negotiated plea is straightforward, as the judge will impose the sentence agreed upon. As a result, the defendant will not need to present any character evidence or mitigation during the hearing. Be aware that if the judge finds parts of the agreed-upon resolution objectionable, then they will stop the sentencing and the parties will either adjust the terms to satisfy the judge or agree to any additional terms the judge would require before accepting the plea.
An open plea means that there has been no agreed-upon sentence reached with the prosecutor, and as a result the judge will be given the responsibility of determining an appropriate sentence. Open pleas usually occur when:
- The prosecutor will not make an offer
- The defense attorney believes the judge will impose a more reasonable sentence than what the prosecutor might offer
Note that when you enter an open plea, the judge can impose any sentence so long as it falls between the minimum and maximum penalties authorized by law.
If you are found guilty by a jury, you will enter a guilty plea and it will be necessary to present witnesses to testify to your character and to what type of sentence would be appropriate. Be aware that if you are convicted of a first-time felony offense, the judge will order a Pre-Sentence investigation (PSI), which is a background check conducted by a Florida Department of Corrections probation officer. The officer will question you, your family, friends, witnesses in the case, and your attorney to prepare the PSI. The PSI might include the cause and circumstances of the alleged crime, your criminal history, background about family, education, employment, and health.
At the sentencing hearing, the judge may impose any combination of the following penalties:
- Community Control (House Arrest)
Be aware that if you qualify for probation, any violation of the conditions set forth could result in serving a harsher term of your original sentence, such as the jail time you originally avoided. With that in mind, the general requirements for probation are as follows:
- Report regularly to a probation officer
- Notify probation officer before changing residences, employment, or traveling out of the county
- Lead a law-abiding life and not commit any other crimes
Mandatory Minimum Sentencing
While your attorney will work to lower the penalties of your sentence, be aware that the judge must still abide by the state’s mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines, which establish a set minimum fine or jail time for particular crimes that cannot be further reduced. In Florida, there are three categories of crimes that fall under mandatory minimum sentencing:
- Drug Crimes (trafficking)
- Sex Crimes (child sex abuse)
- Gun Crimes (any crime with a firearm present)
The mandatory minimum sentencing for drug crimes is a minimum of 3 to 25 years of jail time and a $50,000-$750,000 fine, depending on the amount of drugs in possession. The minimum sentence for sex crimes depends heavily on the circumstances of the case. An adult who commits a sex crime against a child under the age of 12, if not life in prison, will face a mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years in prison followed by sex offender probation or community control for life. As for gun crimes, the minimum sentence will depend on the crime committed while possessing a firearm, as well as whether another person was harmed during commission of the crime. The mandatory minimum sentence ranges from 3 to 25 years in state prison, based on the crime.
While mandatory minimum sentencing creates a sense of transparency with its fixed sentencing rules of certain terms of imprisonment, it also consequently leaves less room for an empathetic sentence. In other words, defendants can be sentenced to longer terms, but not to shorter terms. This can create instances where a convicted individual might serve an unfairly long sentence. For this reason, it is critical to hire a good defense attorney who can assess the facts of your case and develop a strong and compelling defense on your behalf.
Attorney Nellie L. King treats her clients like family and takes each case personally. She gets to know her clients one-on-one and hear their side of the story. As a result, she can develop a personalized approach and frame a tenacious argument surrounding the specific facts of their situation. Whether entering a negotiated plea or open plea, and despite the confines of the mandatory minimum sentencing, Attorney King will prioritize your defense to argue for a minimum sentence and protect your rights.
Award-Winning Trial Lawyer
Nearly 25 Years of Legal Experience
Personalized Approach to Handling Cases
Well-Respected in the Legal Community
The Government zealously in State & Federal Courts with a reputation for fierce advocacy, unwavering attention to detail, aggressive defense tactics, & award-winning oratory skills.Attorney Profile
For criminal justice reform & Constitutional protections for ALL citizens accused, becoming a nationwide change-maker known for her passionate advocacy, commitment to volunteerism, & dedication.View Awards
The criminal defense bar on the National, State, & Local levels, earning the status among her peers as a true defender: committed to the ideals of a just society one client, one project, one conversation at a time.Leadership Roles
In the media as a seriousIn The News
litigator, tenacious advocate,
& an experienced criminal
defense practitioner who leaves
no stone unturned in the
preparation of her cases.
Attorney King was my voice in the courtroom.- V.C., Former Client
Top-notch, caring, and highly respected.- Brenda Benson
Ms. King truly cares about her clients and the outcome of their cases.- W.G.
Nellie brings power and grace. She is the velvet hammer.- Leigh D. Hagan (Ph.D. Board-Certified Forensic Psychologist)
She is a true leader and one of the fiercest advocates in the legal profession.- Jessica Yeary (Board Certified Criminal Trial Lawyer & Public Defender Elect, Florida’s 2nd Judicial Circuit)
Nellie is a DEFENDER!- Joe Guastaferro (Nationally Recognized Trial Consultant and Jury Selection Specialist)
A top-notch fighter who will protect their legal rights.- Charles Mittelstadt (Criminal Defense Investigator)