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decided: June 9, 1987.



O'Connor, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.

Author: O'connor

[ 482 U.S. Page 424]

 JUSTICE O'CONNOR delivered the opinion of the Court.

At the time petitioner committed the crime for which he was convicted, Florida's sentencing guidelines would have resulted in a presumptive sentence of 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 years' imprisonment. At the time petitioner was sentenced, the revised guidelines called for a presumptive sentence of 5 1/2 to 7 years in prison. The trial court applied the guidelines in effect at the time of sentencing and imposed a 7-year sentence. The question presented is whether application of these amended

[ 482 U.S. Page 425]

     guidelines in petitioner's case is unconstitutional by virtue of the Ex Post Facto Clause.


In 1983, the Florida Legislature enacted legislation replacing Florida's system of indeterminate sentencing with a sentencing guidelines scheme intended "to eliminate unwarranted variation in the sentencing process." Fla. Rule Crim. Proc. 3.701(b) (1983). See 1983 Fla. Laws, ch. 83-216. Under the sentencing statute, a guidelines commission was responsible for "the initial development of a statewide system of sentencing guidelines." Fla. Stat. § 921.001(1) (1983). Once the commission had made its recommendation, the Supreme Court of Florida was to develop a final system of guidelines. These guidelines were to become effective for crimes committed on or after October 1, 1983. Fla. Stat. § 921.001(4)(a) (1983).

The sentencing statute authorized the guidelines commission to "meet annually or at the call of the chairman to review sentencing practices and recommend modifications to the guidelines." Fla. Stat. § 921.001(3) (1983). Before the convening of the legislature each year, the commission was to make its recommendations regarding the need for changes in the guidelines. The Supreme Court of Florida then could revise the sentencing guidelines to conform to all or part of the commission's recommendations. The sentencing law provided, however, that such revisions would become effective "only upon the subsequent adoption by the Legislature of legislation implementing the guidelines as then revised." Fla. Stat. § 921.001(4)(b) (1983).

In accordance with this legislation, the Supreme Court of Florida developed sentencing guidelines that went into effect on October 1, 1983. See In re Rules of Criminal Procedure (Sentencing Guidelines), 439 So. 2d 848 (1983). Under the scheme, offenses were grouped into nine "offense categories" (e. g., "robbery" and "sexual offenses"). A single sentencing

[ 482 U.S. Page 426]

     "scoresheet" would be prepared based on the defendant's "primary offense," defined as the crime "with the highest statutory degree" at the time of conviction. Fla. Rule Crim. Proc. 3.701(d) (1983). In scoring a defendant's guidelines sentence, points would be assigned based on the primary offense, additional offenses at the time of conviction, prior record, legal status at the time of the offense, and victim injury. The defendant's total point score then would be compared to a chart for that offense category, which provided a presumptive sentence for that composite score.

The presumptive sentence range was "assumed to be appropriate for the composite score of the offender." Fla. Rule Crim. Proc. 3.701(d)(8) (1983). Within the recommended range, the sentencing judge had discretion to fix the sentence "without the requirement of a written explanation." Ibid. If the sentencing judge wished to depart from the guideline range, however, the judge had to give clear and convincing reasons in writing for doing so:

"Departures from the presumptive sentence should be avoided unless there are clear and convincing reasons to warrant aggravating or mitigating the sentence. Any sentence outside of the guidelines must be accompanied by a written statement delineating the reasons for the departure. Reasons for deviating from the guidelines shall not include factors relating to either instant offense or prior arrests for which convictions have not been obtained." Fla. Rule Crim. Proc. 3.701(d)(11) (1983).

The "clear and convincing" standard was construed as requiring reasons "of such weight as to produce in the mind of the judge a firm belief or conviction, without hesitancy, that departure is warranted." State v. Mischler, 488 So. 2d 523, 525 (Fla. 1986). Only those sentences that fall outside the guidelines' range are subject to appellate review. See Fla. Stat. § 921.001(5) (1983).

Petitioner was convicted in August 1984 on counts of sexual battery with slight force, a second-degree felony, Fla.

[ 482 U.S. Page 427]

     Stat. § 794.011(5) (Supp. 1984); burglary with an assault, a felony of the "first degree punishable by . . . life," Fla. Stat. § 810.02 (1983); and petit theft, a misdemeanor, Fla. Stat. § 812.014(2)(c) (1983). On April 25, 1984, when these offenses were committed, the sentencing guidelines adopted October 1, 1983, were still in effect. On May 8, 1984, however, the Supreme Court of Florida proposed several revisions to the sentencing guidelines. See Florida Bar: Amendment to Rules of Criminal Procedure (3.701, 3.988 -- Sentencing Guidelines), 451 So. 2d 824 (1984). In June 1984 the Florida Legislature adopted the recommended changes, see 1984 Fla. Laws, ch. 84-328, and the legislation implementing ...

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