Clearwater Criminal Defense Attorneys are often asked, “How much jail time is the Judge going to sentence me to?”
A few days ago I received this email from a reader:
I was recently charged with Grand Theft and Dealing in Stolen Property. I did commit the crimes and I know it was very stupid of me to do so. Times were very rough at the time of the offence and I thought it was the easiest way for me to support my family but I know it was not right. I’ve never been in trouble before and am very scarred I’ll be taken away from my my wife and 1yr old son. Like I said I know I was wrong but cannot afford to lose my family. I know every case is different , but realisticly what might be the chances of getting this resolved without jail time? Thank you for your time.
|Original Poster for the Victor Hugo Book
|First, it’s probably a good idea not to confess to any crime even with an anonymous email. But to answer the letter writer’s question as to what is a Tampa Bay Judge likely to do if he does plead guilty, one must look to the Florida Sentencing Guidelines which will determine where a Defendant’s guideline range lies on a Florida Sentencing Scoresheet. For a thorough discussion of this see, How Guidelines and Scoresheets Determine Your Sentence in Pinellas and Tampa Bay Florida Courts. The charged offenses, the defendant’s prior record, aggravating and mitigating factors all come into play.
The anonymous author states that he’s never been in trouble, so let’s assume there are no prior convictions. Nor does the writer mention how much was the value of what was stolen in the Grand Theft allegation. Valuation can drive up the degree and severity of the charged offense. But The Dealing in Stolen Property charge is a second degree felony and will propel the scoresheet into a state prison time recommendation from the prosecutor for the judge. Yet ultimately what we want are judges not prosecutors making these decisions, with Tampa Bay Judges having the discretion to do what is right, to make decisions in Court that won’t destroy people’s lives needlessly. One hopes we’ve come a long way from Victor Hugo’s description of 19 years for stealing a loaf of bread. The goal of a Clearwater Criminal Defense Lawyer is to determine if the charges can be reduced to lessor offenses, if so there’s a very good chance there’d be no prison time; if not to find the best possible arguments, facts and to tell the judge about your life and your family obligations, why the crime happened and why you will never be in front of the Judge again to support a sentence that does not include prison.
The United States Sentencing Commission just finished an extensive study on the effects of Mandatory Minimum sentences in federal sentencing which it has just sent to the U.S. Congress.
You’ll find some excellent recommendations that Congress should immediately adopt such as reducing Mandatory Minimum sentences, giving Judges more discretion in sentencing, reducing Prosecutorial power, enlarging the safety valve for more than just first time offenders, making the guidelines fairer and reducing demographic and racial disparity in sentencing – all of which would provide your Federal Criminal Trial Attorney with some reason to believe that sentencing under the Federal Guidelines really could become fair and impartial.
Below is a brief summary from Amy Baron Evans (many thanks) of Chapter 12 (the Recommendations). You can access the entire study from the link below.
Drugs · “Commission analysis indicates that the quantity of drugs involved in an offense is not as closely related to the offender’s function in the offense as perhaps Congress expected.” “[O]ffenders who performed lower-level functions such as Couriers and Mules also were convicted of drug offenses carrying a mandatory minimum penalty in a significant proportion of their cases (49.6% and 43.1%, respectively). For every function, the quantity of drugs involved in the offense on average resulted in a median base offense level that included or exceeded the five-year mandatory minimum penalty.” But, USSC suggests, safety valve and role adjustments correct for the problem on average.
· Criminal history in drug cases – the “cumulative impacts”
of 851, the CH score, and the unavailability of safety valve relief “can result in disproportionate and excessively severe sentences in certain cases.”
FAMM – The Fair Sentencing Act of 2010
Stacking 924(c)s “results in excessively severe and unjust sentences in
some cases.” Average sent5ence was 351 months! “There are some circumstances where such a long sentence may be appropriate (e.g., in the eight cases in fiscal year 2010 in which the offender’s primary guideline was §2A1.1, which covers first degree murder), but there are other circumstances in which the offender received such a long sentence even though the offense did not involve any physical harm or threat of physical harm to a person.”
Mandatory Minimum Sentencing | Drug War Facts
ACCA: Applied inconsistently in part because whether an offense is a
“violent felony” or “serious drug offense” depends on the stat max in the convicting state (one year or 10 years, respectively). “As a result, the Armed Career Criminal Act’s mandatory minimum penalty can apply to offenders who served no or minimal terms of imprisonment for their predicate offenses, further increasing the potential for inconsistent application insofar as the penalty may be viewed as excessively severe in those cases.” Recommendations:
· Reduce the penalties for 924(c)s, especially stacked 924 (c)s
· Make 924(c) a true “recidivist” statute by limiting to prior convictions
· Give the court limited discretion to impose consecutive sentences for multiple 924(c)s as in 1028A
USSC will study further and make recommendations later, but “preliminary
review of the available sentencing data suggests that the mandatory minimum penalties for certain child pornography offenses and the resulting guidelines sentencing ranges may be excessively severe and as a result are being applied inconsistently.” The data is non-gov sponsored variances, gov-sponsored variances, and failure to charge the mand min in 53% of cases where it’s available.
Aggravated Identity Theft
USSC likes this better than other MMs because (1) the two-year consecutive
penalty is relatively short, (2) the court has discretion to impose sentences for multiple violations concurrently, (3) there is no stacking provision, and (4) it does not depend on CH or weapons, which creates demographic disparity under other MMs. There is inter-district disparity in the use of 1028A but this may be because it’s new, and in any event, the punishment is relatively short.
Safety valve in general
Congress should consider whether to enact safety valve for low-level,
non-violent offenders convicted of other offenses.
This recent painting depicts a beaming French Poodle who sits centre stage as the wise Judge at Court. That’s an adoring bailiff at the judge’s left paw staring at the Judge with appropriate admiration and respect. I’m the bright black Labrador to the Judge’s right with an Important Brief that I’ve dipped in beef broth in hopes of the Judge devouring my every word.
|Trial by Jury or Laying Down the Law by Sir Edwin Landseer, 1840
|The painting was inspired by a chance comment by an infamous Tampa Bay Judge, over dinner with the painter Sir Edwin Landseer, that the French poodle belonging to amateur artist and renowned socialite, the Count d’Orsay of Clearwater Beach, Florida “would make a capital Lord Chancellor (Chief Judge in England).”