St. Petersburg Felony Criminal Charges Lawyer
St. Petersburg / Clearwater Defense Lawyers Who Can Help
The Impact of a Felony Conviction
A conviction for a felony could have a major impact on your life. It would result in the loss of your civil rights, including your right to vote, your ability to sit on a jury, and your right to own, use, or possess a firearm. Felony drug charges that result in conviction normally cause the immediate two-year suspension of your privilege to drive. Convicted felons are often prohibited from employment in occupations involving the handling of money or valuables, as their honesty, and trustworthiness is forever suspect. Likewise, a felony conviction is a significant barrier if you later decide to pursue a professional discipline such as medicine, nursing, teaching, real estate sales, financial services, insurance, or the practice of law. Even if you are already licensed in a profession, a subsequent felony conviction would most likely trigger a review of your “character and fitness” and jeopardize both your license and your ability to continue to work within that field. Given these consequences, having a St. Petersburg felony criminal charges lawyer on your side is critical.
How Felony Sentencing Works
In Pinellas County, felony charges are handled in “Circuit Court” and are assigned to one of nine different Circuit Court divisions. Each division is overseen by the judge assigned to that particular courtroom. Find out who your Pinellas County Criminal Court Judge is here.
Whereas Pinellas County Court Judges have great discretion in fashioning sentences for misdemeanor offenses, judges in Circuit Court are restricted to some extent by the Florida Sentencing Guidelines. These”guidelines” dictate the range of a permissible sentence for any given felony offense. In most cases, the Judge is required to impose a sentence within that range. Felony sentences can involve punishments as varied as probation, house arrest, work release, county jail time, or incarceration within the state prison system.
A proper determination of the appropriate sentencing range is based on calculating a numeric “score.” A sentencing range is generated based on many different factors specific to your charge. Each factor is given a different “point” value by the Florida Legislature. A mathematical formula is then employed to tally these points and to arrive at a sentencing range specified by the Guidelines. Some of the basic factors that are taken into account include:
- The “level” of offense assigned to the charge as dictated by the Florida Legislature. (Offense levels are seperate and distinct from the “degree” of the charge. For example, a third degree felony could be a level one, two, three, four, five, six, or seven offense, depending on the nature of the charge itself.)
- Whether you are currently facing more than one charge.
- If applicable, any injury and the severity of that injury suffered by the alleged victim.
- Prior criminal record (including past convictions for both felonies and misdemeanors) and the seriousness of those past convictions.
- Whether you were on probation or house arrest at the time the new offense was alleged to have been committed.
Florida Statutes 921.002 sets forth the purpose of and scope of Florida’s felony Criminal Punishment Code. Numerous other additional factors are also taken into account in the “scoring” process. Because each case is unique, it is quite possible for the sentencing range to differ from person to person even where the charge is the same.
View the Florida Criminal Punishment Code Scoresheet Preparation Manual
Felony Sentencing – We can Calculate Your Exposure to Prison
There has been much criticism within the St. Petersburg / Clearwater legal community that the “Sentencing Guidelines” fail to afford Florida judges with the necessary discretion in sentencing felony matters. For example, between 1993 and 2007, the state’s inmate population increased from 53,000 to over 97,000. As a result, Florida leads every other state in the percentage growth of its inmate population. This results in an estimated cost to the Sunshine State’s taxpayers of $19,308 per year for each person incarcerated. In 2007 alone, Florida spent $2.72 billion dollars on corrections. This figure represents nearly 10% of the entire state budget. Many experts attribute this “super-sized” prison population and fiscal irresponsibility to the Sentencing Guideline calculations that our judges are forced to contend with. If you are currently charged with a felony offense, you are subject to these same complex Punishment Code provisions. You need to consult with an experienced St. Petersburg / Clearwater criminal defense attorney who has a firm understanding of proper scoresheet preparation and setencing guideline departure practices.
Read the Fla. Bar Journal article: “Unhandcuffing Justice: Proposals to Return Rationality to Criminal Sentencing.”
How Russo, Pelletier & Sullivan Can Help with Felony Charges in St. Petersburg / Clearwater
Depending on the facts of your case, our office may be able to help you minimize or even avoid many of the consequences associated with a felony charge. In many situations, we may be able to:
Getting the Charge Dropped – Early Intervention
Intervene early with the State Attorney’s Office and convince the prosecutor to not file charges, or to file a less serious charge then the one currently pending.
Getting the Charge Dismissed – Pre-Trial Intervention
Where appropriate, take steps to make application to a “diversion program” on your behalf. Successful completion of the diversion program would result in the judge dismissing the charge against you.
Avoiding Mandatory Prison – Departure Sentencing
Provide facts and “mitigating” evidence presenting you in a more positive light to the judge hearing your case. These efforts could take advantage of a provision in the law that allows the judge to legally “depart” from the Sentencing Guidelines and impose a sentence that is less severe than otherwise called for by the law.
Avoiding Conviction – Withhold of Adjudication
Negotiate with the prosecutor and the court in an effort to secure a “withhold of adjudication.” Resolving your felony charge by securing a withhold of adjudication could be highly beneficial. You could thereafter truthfully state that you were not convicted of the charge. Learn more about avoiding conviction.
Treatment Instead of Punishment – Drug Court
Transfer your case into “Drug Court” where the emphasis tends toward treatment and rehabilitation as opposed to punishment by incarceration in either the county jail or state prison system.
Re-Checking the Scoresheet
Re-calculate your scoresheet and investigate the possibility that excess points were incorrectly assessed against you, illegally inflating your sentence.
Sealing or Expunging Your Record
At the conclusion of your case, petition the court to seal or expunge all of the records related to your arrest. Learn more about the sealing and expungement of criminal records.
You Need an Attorney for a Felony Charge
Clearly, a felony charge is a complex and serious matter. At this critical time, you need the advice of a qualified St. Petersburg / Clearwater criminal defense attorney.
Call our office for a free consultation: (727) 578-0303 so that together we can investigate all of the options available to you.
Related: Common Felony Offenses