Amended Law Provides Additional Ways to Avoid Prison

          Earlier this month, I published an article on this website entitled Florida Sentencing and Drug Court Programs in which I noted that if a criminal defendant has more than 44 total sentence points on the sentencing guidelines, he is supposed to be sentenced to state prison.


          But on July 1st of this year, the Florida Legislature amended Florida Statute Section 948.20 ["Drug offender probation"] in such a way that some individuals who might previously have been sentenced to prison can now instead be placed on drug-offender probation or into a treatment-based drug court program.  Section 948.20 now provides that:


          "If it appears to the court upon a hearing that the defendant is a chronic substance abuser whose criminal conduct is a violation of [Florida Statute Section] 893.13(2)(a) or (6)(a), or other nonviolent felony if such nonviolent felony is committed on or after July 1, 2009, and notwithstanding [Florida Statute Section] 921.0024 the defendant's Criminal Punishment Code scoresheet total sentence points are 52 points or fewer, the court may either adjudge the defendant guilty or stay and withhold the adjudication of guilt. In either case, the court may also stay and withhold the imposition of sentence and place the defendant on drug offender probation or into a postadjudicatory treatment-based drug court program if the defendant otherwise qualifies. As used in this section, the term 'nonviolent felony' means a third degree felony violation under [Florida Statutes] chapter 810 ['Burglary and Trespass'] or any other felony offense that is not a forcible felony as defined in [Florida Statute Section] 776.08."


          Therefore, according to the amended version of the drug-offender probation statute, a person who has as many as 52 points on the sentencing guidelines may now be able to avoid going to prison.

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