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What Are Indeterminate and Determinate Prison Sentences?

Florida’s historical shift from indeterminate sentencing to determinate prison sentencing eliminated a parole board’s discretion regarding terms of imprisonment actually served by defendants. Understanding the difference between the two types of sentencing guidelines can help you better understand how things seen in television and movies may differ from your criminal case.

What Is Determinate Sentencing?

Determinate sentences are prison or jail terms with a defined length that a parole board or another agency cannot alter. If a defendant is sentenced to spend two years in prison, that defendant will spend two years in prison, barring time reduced for good behavior, participating in a work-release program, or other in-custody alternatives, such as credit for time served awaiting trial.

What Is Indeterminate Sentencing?

An indeterminate sentence is a range of time spent in prison or jail, instead of an absolute amount. For example, a defendant may be sentenced to 15 to 20 years in prison for a serious crime. Indeterminate sentences always have a minimum incarceration term (although this, too, may be reduced with certain credits). 

A person sentenced to an indeterminate sentence will have to spend at least the minimum incarcerated time, but their release date isn’t set. After reviewing their case and circumstances, the state parole board determines the end of their sentence and when they are eligible to apply for parole.

Indeterminate sentences were more common for felony convictions and were usually not handed down for less-serious offenses.

Indeterminate sentencing is intended to reward individuals who demonstrated true rehabilitation while in prison. 

And a range of sentencing times, with the “carrot” of the minimum stay, may have incentivized those in prison to behave and work toward an earlier release.

However, critics of indeterminate sentencing believed it gave too much power to parole boards when it more appropriately belongs to the judge.

Do You Need Criminal Representation in Tampa, FL?

If you’re concerned about a firm sentence or need an aggressive and tenacious defense in court, we can help. Contact Shrader & Mendez, Attorneys at Law, at (813) 360-1529 for a confidential consultation for your case. 

Posted in Criminal Defense