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Florida Court Discusses Calculation of Prior Offender Scores

Battery is a serious charge, and a conviction for a battery offense can lead to significant penalties. Additionally, if a person with a battery conviction is later found guilty of committing another offense, it can lead to increased penalties. Generally, crimes are categorized by degrees, and convictions for more serious crimes can result in lengthy jail sentences. In a recent ruling, a Florida court discussed how prior record points are calculated for crimes that are not categorized by degree in a case in which the defendant argued his prior convictions for battery and other offenses were improperly assessed. If you are charged with battery or another crime, it is in your best interest to meet with a trusted Florida criminal defense lawyer to determine your options.

The Defendant’s Convictions and Sentence

It is reported that the defendant was charged with and convicted of three counts of battery and one count of kidnapping. He was sentenced to life imprisonment, and the sentence was affirmed by the trial court. In July 2020, he filed a motion arguing that the sentence of life imprisonment on the kidnapping charge was improper. Specifically, he asserted that his sentencing guideline scoresheet was improper because his prior convictions were from 1973, when Florida’s statutes for his prior convictions, which included battery, were not classified by degrees. Further, he stated that because the degrees of the offenses were ambiguous, pursuant to the applicable law, they should have been scored as third-degree felonies. The court denied his motion, and the defendant appealed.

Calculating Prior Offense Scores

On appeal, the court noted that Florida began classifying felony crimes by degrees in 1972. Further, the court explained that when a prior offense is not classified by degree, it is appropriate to score it by reference to the current, similar statute. Based on the foregoing, the court found that there was no miscalculation on the defendant’s scoresheet. Further, even if the scoresheet was recalculated, resulting in a range below life imprisonment, the sentencing court could have put in place the same sentence regardless, based on the defendant’s escalating pattern of criminal behavior.

The court went on to note that in any motion seeking to correct an illegal sentence that is filed more than two years after a conviction is final, a scoresheet error will be deemed harmless if the trial court could have put in place the same sentence under the corrected scoresheet. In the subject case, the court explained that the defendant’s numerous prior convictions, when evaluated based on the current analogous statutes, would have resulted in a prior offender score of 524, which carries a recommended range of life imprisonment. Thus, the trial court ruling was affirmed.

Meet with a Capable Criminal Defense Attorney in Florida

A battery conviction can result in lifelong consequences, and it is important for anyone charged with a battery offense to speak to a criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. Florida criminal defense attorney Genine Ann Mejia is adept at aiding people charged with crimes in the pursuit of fair outcomes, and if you hire her, she will advocate zealously in your defense. You can reach Ms. Mejia through the online form or at (386) 463-0849 to set up a meeting.

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