Downward Departures

Criminal Defense Lawyers Representing the People of St. Petersburg

Facing a criminal charge can be one of the scariest prospects of someone’s entire life. A criminal charge or conviction, depending on the outcome, can haunt a person forever and can affect their ability to work, travel and live a full life. These fears are compounded when the prospect of a prison sentence is on the table. Unfortunately, after decades of “tough on crime” legislation from our nation’s lawmakers, more and more people face the prospect of prison. As you probably know, the United States has the largest prison population in the world, even though it has only the third largest population. The United States also has the highest per-capita incarceration rate. Florida is the state with the third largest prison population in the country. The threat of a prison sentence in the state of Florida is great, so you should be sure to hire a seasoned St. Petersburg criminal lawyer if you are facing serious charges.

Because prison is such a serious threat for criminal defendants in Florida, it is important that you consult with a lawyer who knows the ins and outs of the law and who can do everything possible to keep you out of prison. One of the avenues that your lawyer may have to prevent a prison sentence is called a downward departure.

What is a Downward Departure?

A downward departure is a legal motion that your lawyer can file on your behalf in order to convince the Judge to sentence you to a punishment below the lowest permissible prison sentence. In Florida, your lowest possible sentence is governed by your criminal punishment code scoresheet. Every criminal offense has what is called and offense level. The offense level determines how many points are applied to your case. Once the points for your pending case and any prior convictions you have are added together, you can determine the minimum possible penalty for your case. Many felonies are minor enough that they will not carry a mandatory sentence. However, for those with serious felonies or lengthy records, they may score enough points to face mandatory prison.

A downward departure is one avenue that a determined St. Petersburg criminal lawyer can use to get around that “mandatory” prison sentence. The downward departure statute, section 921.0026 lays out several circumstances were a criminal defendant can earn a downward departure sentence. The first subsection indicates that a downward departure can be granted based on a legitimate plea bargain. This means that your lawyer can negotiate with the state and present mitigating circumstances to get the prosecution to agree to a sentence below your mandatory guideline sentence.

The second available downward departure is for defendants who were either accomplices or relatively minor participants in the charged offense. In Florida, you can be charged with a crime like armed robbery even if you were unarmed and did not directly participated in the burglary. As long as the prosecution can connect you to the offense as an accomplice, you can be charged and convicted. However, if you are facing mandatory prison, a skilled St. Petersburg criminal lawyer may be able to argue a downward departure to get you a lower sentence.

One of the most common downward departures is that the offense was committed in an unsophisticated manner and was an isolated incident for which the defendant has shown remorse. This downward option is often available to people who are charged with a serious criminal offense but have little or no criminal history.

Speak to Our Lawyers Today

The downward departure options discussed above only scratch the surface of the alternative sentencing options available for people facing mandatory prison sentences. If you find yourself facing any criminal charges, you should not hesitate to contact the lawyers at Hanlon Law. We have years of experience representing clients facing life altering criminal penalties, and through that experience we have developed strategies to deal with a myriad of criminal problems. Call us today at 727-897-5413.

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As a practicing attorney, I was shocked to hear that a family member of mine was alleged to have committed a sex crime. Knowing full well the consequences this type of allegation can have on anyone and their future, I immediately reached out to William Hanlon for help. I had every confidence that Mr. Hanlon had the knowledge, expertise, and experience to handle this problem. Approximately 4 weeks from an initial conference with Mr. Hanlon, we received a call with the news that a letter of release was being issued and the case was being dropped. Now my family member can finally exhale, take a deep breath, and go on with his life. Thank you, William! Jerry
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