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Minimum Penalties For Crimes

When you get arrested, one of the first places you will go mentally is "worst-case scenario" mode. It's natural, so don't feel like you're being negative. Getting arrested is not a good thing. You worry about the penalty, or sentence, that you may face.

All crimes in Florida have maximum penalties. That is, the statutory maximum that you can receive for a certain offense.

For instance, if charged with a second-degree misdemeanor, you cannot be sentenced to more than 60 days in jail and a $500 fine. If charged with a first-degree felony, you cannot be sentenced to more than 30 years in prison.

These maximums do not take into account increased penalties that may apply due to your prior record.

In order to be sentenced to the maximum, you typically have to have a bad prior record, have committed a serious crime, and have been found guilty at trial. In plea negotiations, rarely does anybody plead guilty and receive the maximum penalty.

So now you know about maximums. What about minimums?

A diversionary program such as Pretrial Intervention (PTI) does not count as a sentence since it is not imposed by the court and it does not require a finding of guilt.

The lowest sentence a judge can impose for a misdemeanor offense is a withhold of adjudication and the assessment of court costs. Court costs cannot be waived by the court because they are required by statute. A withhold is not a conviction.

The lowest sentence a judge can impose for a felony is a withhold of adjudication and a term of probation. A judge may not suspend entry of sentence for a felony. However, a judge can sentence you to one day of non-reporting probation in order to satisfy this legal technicality.

If you score state prison time at the bottom of your Florida Criminal Punishment Code sentencing guidelines, the judge must sentence you to the bottom of your guidelines but can deviate and sentence you to some sanction "below guidelines" if he or she makes written findings that you are not a danger to the community. The state may object to this and may appeal the judge's sentence.

If you are subject to a mandatory minimum sentence, the judge cannot sentence you below that mandatory minimum unless the statute determines that the mandatory minimum is compulsory (the judge must do it) or discretionary (the judge can do it). Most mandatory minimums are compulsory.

When you decide to speak with a criminal defense attorney to discuss your Miami or Broward case, make sure you ask about the minimum sentences. This may give you a more realistic idea of what you are facing, especially if you are a first-time offender.