What is a Downward Departure?

When you go through the legal process and are found guilty of a crime, the law requires that you receive a sentence. The sentence may include various components such as jail time, fines, community service, and probation. The judge has the ability to depart from the applicable sentencing guidelines and order a sentence that is lower. That lower sentence is called a downward departure. A downward departure may be applicable to some types of crimes when there are mitigating factors involved.

How do Florida Judges Determine Sentences?

Florida utilizes a computerized formula that calculates a score for your particular crime. The Florida Department of Corrections Criminal Punishment Code (CPC) assigns a level and numerical value to a particular crime. The CPC applies to all felonies except capital felonies. When you are convicted of a crime, you will have a number assigned. The numerical value provides the judge with guidelines for sentencing. For example, when the number reaches a specific amount, sentencing includes jail time. Judges must follow the sentencing guidelines based on the numerical score. However, they have the ability to depart from the guidelines when there are mitigating circumstances that would indicate a lower sentence.

What are Mitigating Factors?

Mitigating factors are those that the court may use when they consider the sentencing of a convicted person. Florida has 14 mitigating factors that may apply to any specific case. Some of these include:

  • If the defendant is a youth
  • If the defendant was an accomplice or had a minor role in the crime
  • When the defendant was providing medical assistance in an overdose
  • When the defendant was under the control of another person
  • When restitution payment is a better punishment than a prison sentence

These and other mitigating factors can be used by the judge to reduce a potential sentence. The judge will take mitigating factors into consideration when determining a sentence based on existing guidelines.

Can I Get a Downward Departure?

It may be possible to obtain a downward departure. A skilled criminal defense attorney will evaluate your case and provide mitigating factors to present to the court. These factors may help you get a reduced sentence. A downward departure is the exception, not the norm. Therefore, you cannot expect to receive special consideration from the court unless you have sufficient mitigating factors. Each judge has the ability to review the sentencing guidelines and mitigating factors to determine the appropriate sentence.

When you have been charged with a crime, you are likely going through a difficult time. Although you may be found guilty, you may be able to obtain a lower sentence with help from an experienced Brevard County criminal defense attorney. Your lawyer will fight on your behalf to get a not-guilty verdict. If a guilty verdict is found, you may not automatically get the harshest sentence per the guidelines. Your lawyer will answer your questions and work to resolve your case with a reduced sentence whenever possible. To get the legal help you need, contact our legal team at Henderson Legal Group today.


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