When can a judge deviate from sentencing guidelines?

When you are arrested on criminal charges in Jacksonville or anywhere in Florida, you will have a scoresheet. The prosecutor scores out the offense you are charged with and adds in points for crimes you have been convicted of in the past. Your “score” is a guide or recommendation for the court to follow. The prosecutor can “waive” the guidelines allowing the judge to sentence you to below the recommendation.

If the prosecutor does not waive the guidelines, the judge can depart from them on their own if he or she considers all aggravating and mitigating factors in your case. If a judge wants to go above the guidelines, some aggravating factors to consider are:

1. The defendant committed multiple crimes in separate episodes.

2. The crime was particularly heinous or cruel.

3. The crime was committed less than six months from a defendant’s release from prison on
another charge.

4. The defendant was the leader of a criminal organization.

5. The defendant was an elected official and used his or her office as a cover.

6. The victim was vulnerable because of his or her age or a disability.

If a judge wants to depart downward (give a sentence less than the guidelines), some mitigating factors to consider are:

1. The defendant was a minor participant in the crime
2. The defendant’s mental capacity to understand the criminal aspects of his or her behavior was impaired.

3. The defendant has a mental condition that requires special treatment.

4. The ability to pay back the restitution to the victim outweighs a prison sentence.

5. The victim of the crime was a willing participant, aggressor, or otherwise provoked the incident.

6. At the time the crime was committed, the defendant was too young to appreciate the consequences of his or her behavior.

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