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Beginner's Guide to "Pleas" - Part 2: Sentencing

Adjudication, what the heck does that mean? What will I be sentenced to? What is a Withhold?

When a case is resolved by either a plea or a trial, the next phase is what we call the SENTENCE.. Dun Dun Dunnnn

Sentences can be scary, unless they are part of the plea agreement. When a plea agreement is made with the Judge or the Prosecutor, you already know what the sentence will be. You will typically know if the court will Withhold Adjudication, Adjudicate you Guilty, and what the punishment will be.

ad·ju·di·ca·tion

əˌjo͞odəˈkāSH(ə)n/
First, just so we are clear, it's pronounced "a-joo-dih-kay-shun" (not adjudification, I don't even know what that means). This is a "formal judgment." More specifically, it means whether or not a person is convicted of the crime that they have been accused of committing. If the court " Withholds Adjudication" that means that even though you are being sentenced, you are not convicted of the crime. If the court " Adjudicates (you) Guilty," the court is convicting you of a crime. There are some charges, like a DUI, where the conviction is automatic because of the way the Florida laws are written. If a person gets a withhold, they can legally answer that they have never been convicted of a crime on a job application, an apartment application, etc. If a person is adjudicated guilty , the person must admit to being convicted of a crime. Additionally, certain crimes carry additional penalties if convicted. For instance, if a person is convicted of drug possession, a conviction means they will also lose their driving privilege for one year. If a person is convicted of a Felony, they lose their civil liberties - including the right to vote, the right to possess a firearm or ammunition, and it can further prevent a person from certain employment and even acting as a chaperon on a school field trip for their children. logo-area-of-practice

Jail or Prison

One of the sanctions that a person can face is time in County Jail or the State Department of Corrections. For misdemeanors, a person can be sentenced to county jail. If a person is convicted of a Felony, they can be sentenced to prison-553836_640either time at the County Jail or Prison. Most Felony sentences are determined by what is called a " Scoresheet." In Florida, felony offenses are categorized, assigned a point value, and that point system determines the "minimum prison sanction" that a person can be sentenced to, as determined by the Criminal Punishment Code. First Degree Misdemeanors are punishable by up to 1 year in jail. Second Degree Misdemeanors are punishable by up to 60 days in jail. First Degree Felonies are punishable by up to Life (or 30 years) in prison. Second Degree Felonies are punishable by up to 15 years in prison. Third Degree Felonies are punishable by up to 5 years in prison.

Fines

In addition or instead of jail, a person can be punished by a fine. A fine is a monetary penalty. Fines range from $500-15000.00. Some charges have mandatory minimum fines, like DUI and Reckless Driving.

Probation

Another sanction that person can face is Probation. Probation is similar to being 'grounded.' The court uses the time a person is on probation to ensure that the defendant completes classes, performs community service, stays away from a victim, doesn't use drugs, or simply just stays out of trouble. Typically, a defendant will meet with a Probation Officer at least once a month. At Colbert Law, we always recommend that our Clients keep a journal or notebook while on probation. Often, Probation Officers have a lot of cases and may forget that they agreed to something. By keeping a journal or a notebook and writing down requirements or agreements, our Clients have a backup in case there is an issue or a dispute later down the line with Probation. Probation does not typically exceed the maximum amount of time a person can be sentenced to jail, although in second degree misdemeanors probation can be up to 6 months long.

Other Sanctions

Here is where the court or your attorney can get creative. For most crimes, there are standard sanctions like community service, classes, drug evaluation and treatment, letters of apology, etc. However, some judges have ordered Defendants to stand with a sign, or other things. If there is a sanction that you can work out, the court may go along with it, as long as the benefit to the community is very clear or it will be incredibly helpful to make sure the defendant doesn't commit any future crimes.

Concurrent and Consecutive

When a person is charged with multiple crimes, either counts or cases, the Court can decide whether the punishment will seemed-7182_640 run together, or in a row. If a person is on probation, for possession of Cannabis (Count 1) and possession of Paraphernalia (Count 2) for instance, the Court can decide that the probation term runs together, or concurrent. So if a person was sentenced to 6 months of probation for Counts 1 and 2, concurrent, this means that when the 6 months of probation is up, there is no more probation. It's like train tracks. Each rail runs together. Alternatively, a Judge can order the sentences to run Consecutive. This means that when a person is done with the punishment for one count, the punishment for the second count will begin. Using the same example, possession of Cannabis (Count 1) and possession of Paraphernalia (Count 2), if the Court sentences a person to 6 months of probation consecutive to each count, a person will be on probation for 12 months (6+6). This would be the "step by step" sentence. runner-579327_640Choosing to enter into a Plea is a big deal. You must understand the risks, what you're giving up, and the possible sentence or outcome. In order to be successful at completing your Sentence, it's important to understand the penalty. Have a question about this topic? Contact Colbert Law at (407) 705-3220.