How much of a prison sentence to you actually serve?

Aiken and O’Halloran of Sarasota Peter D. Aiken 941-366-3506

February 6 2020

How much of a prison sentence to you actually serve?

Currently, if you are sentenced to State prison, you will server 85 per cent of the sentence, less any time you spent in jail on the charges before conviction.  There is a move to reduce the amount of time to 65%, instead of the current 85%.  Sheriff Wells of Manatee County is leading the opposition to this proposed change involving what they call the “Truth in Sentencing” law.

As a State and Federal Criminal Defense Attorney in Florida, In Florida, it is sometimes difficult to know what you are facing in actual prison time under the Florida sentencing guidelines.  In some instances the State can manipulate the guidelines and run your sentence up just by the way they word the charge.  For example, here in Sarasota, in child pornography cases, the State always charges 40 second degree felonies in an attempt to force the courts to impose what in actuality is a life sentence for just looking at pictures or videos.  In other cases, there is a minimum mandatory sentence that leaves the Court no choice in imposing sentence.  It takes a really good experienced criminal lawyer to give you a projection of how much time you will actually serve. As a Sarasota and Manatee criminal defense lawyer, I try and give clients a good estimate of the actual time…but it is just a projection that can change as the law changes.  Sometimes it is more and sometimes it is less.

It is also difficult to know how much time you will actually serve in County jail.  The most you can get in County jail is one year.  How much of that your actually serve varies from County to County.  It depends on the various “programs” in each individual county.  For example, you will serve more of your sentence in Manatee County than you will in Sarasota County.  It also makes a difference if you are sentenced in Federal Court.  As a former Federal prosecutor, I can tell you, generally the Federal time is “softer” than State prison.  The conditions are more civilized.  For example, if you end up in a Federal “Camp” you may do 85% of your sentence but be eligible for half way house as you get closer to the end of your sentence.  In the Federal system, if you get a “camp”, it is a lot like being in the military.  Most of the Federal “camps” are converted military bases and the conditions are way better than State prison.

As a State and Federal defense lawyer, I would rather have a client serve the sentence in Federal prison than in State prison.  Many of the criminal defense lawyers have little experience in Federal matters and not all criminal defense lawyers practice in both State and Federal Courts.  I recently had a client who was facing 8 years in State prison end up with 15 months in Federal “prison camp”.  That is a huge difference for the exact same conduct.  It makes a huge difference as to whether or not you are in the State or Federal system.

If you are under investigation and have not been charged yet, now, not later, is the time to hire a defense lawyer.  The lawyer may be able to get you prosecuted in a Court where you will do less time under better conditions.  This is particularly true when it comes to sex crimes like child pornography or Internet solicitation of a minor.  If a search warrant for kiddie porn has been executed on your house and you have not yet been arrested, you need to get the best lawyer who really knows the system immediately.  It may make a huge difference down the road.  If you are under investigation and want to have a confidential conversation about what your future may hold, give us a call