Departure Sentence Case Law In Florida

In Ree v. State, 565 So. 2d 1329, 1332 (Fla. 1990), the Court explained that strict adherence to the requirement of a written order was required because a "departure sentence is an extraordinary punishment that requires serious and thoughtful attention by the trial court." We have also explained that written reasons for departure are statutorily required to enhance the uniformity of sentences. See Davis v. State, 661 So. 2d 1193, 1196 (Fla. 1995); Smith v. State, 598 So. 2d 1063, 1067 (Fla. 1992); State v. Jackson, 478 So. 2d 1054, 1056 (Fla. 1985). Further, we recognized that requiring written reasons for departure allows effective appellate review of the trial court's decision to depart. See, e.g., Jackson, 478 So. 2d at 1056. In fact, we considered the correction of this type of sentencing error so important to the sentencing decision that the failure to timely file written reasons for departure resulted in the appellate court remanding for the imposition of a guidelines sentence. See Pope, 561 So. 2d at 554. In the departure context, however, this Court distinguished between departure sentences following a trial and those based on a negotiated plea. A valid plea agreement constitutes clear and convincing grounds for the trial judge to impose a departure sentence. See State v. Williams, 667 So. 2d 191, 193-94 (Fla. 1996); Quarterman, 527 So. 2d at 1382; see also 921.0016(3)(a), (4)(a) (Supp. 1996). The court reasoned in Williams that "while it would be better form for a trial court to state in writing that the plea agreement is the reason for departure, the failure to do so does not invalidate a departure sentence imposed pursuant to a valid plea agreement." 667 So. 2d at 194.