FLORIDA’S MANDATORY SENTENCES FOR FIREARMS OFFENSES

May 20, 2016

Commonly referred to as the “10-20-Life” Law, Section 775.087 of the Florida Statutes provides mandatory penalties for the possession or use of a firearm or a destructive device during the commission of certain felonies.  The listed felonies are: Murder; Sexual Battery (Rape); Robbery; Burglary; Arson; Aggravated Battery; Kidnapping; Escape; Aircraft Piracy; Aggravated Child Abuse; Aggravated Abuse of An Elderly Person Or Disabled Adult; Unlawful Throwing, Placing or Discharging of a Destructive Device or Bomb; Carjacking; Home-Invasion Robbery; Aggravated Stalking; Trafficking in Drugs; and Possession of a Firearm by a Felon.  [*Prior to July 1, 2016, Aggravated Assault was one of the listed felonies.  It was removed from the list by Chapter 2016-7, Laws of Florida (CS/SB 228), approved by Governor Scott on February 24, 2016.]

The mandatory sentences are imposed upon a person who is convicted of one of the listed felonies (or convicted of attempting to commit one of the listed felonies) if a firearm or a destructive device was possessed or used during the felony.  The minimum mandatory sentences are as follows:

10 YEARS for a Defendant who ACTUALLY POSSESSED a firearm or destructive device during the felony.  (If the only felony offense is Possession of a Firearm by a felon, the minimum mandatory sentence will be either 3 YEARS or 10 YEARS, depending on the prior record of the Defendant.)

15 YEARS for a Defendant who ACTUALLY POSSESSED a MACHINE GUN or a “SEMIAUTOMATIC FIREARM AND ITS HIGH-CAPACITY DETACHABLE BOX MAGAZINE” (capable of holding more than 20 centerfire cartridges) during the commission of one of the listed felonies other than Possession of a Firearm by a Felon, or during the commission of a Sale, Manufacture, Delivery, or Intent To Sell, Manufacture or Deliver any Controlled Substance.

20 YEARS for a Defendant who DISCHARGED A FIREARM OR A DESTRUCTIVE DEVICE during the commission of the felony.

25 YEARS TO LIFE for a Defendant who DISCHARGED A FIREARM OR A DESTRUCTIVE DEVICE during the commission of the felony AND THE RESULT WAS DEATH OR GREAT BODILY HARM to any person.

The sentencing court is required to impose these sentences, and the Defendant must serve the entire minimum mandatory sentence with no gain time and no early release other than by pardon, executive clemency, or conditional medical release.  The effect of minimum mandatory sentences is that they take power away from the Judge and give power to the Prosecutor.  If a minimum mandatory sentence applies, the Judge MUST impose it.  The Judge may not give a lesser sentence that he thinks is more fair, just, or appropriate under the circumstances.  On the other hand, only the Prosecutor has discretion to dismiss or amend the charges that the Defendant is facing in order to avoid the mandatory penalties if the Prosecutor so chooses.

Florida’s “10-20-Life” Statute also provides for other enhanced penalties for the possession or use of any weapon (not just a firearm or destructive device) during the commission of certain felonies.  (This provision does not apply when the use of a weapon is an essential element of the offense.)  When this provision applies, a Third Degree Felony is reclassified as a Second Degree Felony; a Second Degree Felony is reclassified as a First Degree Felony; and a First Degree Felony is reclassified as a Life Felony.  In addition, a felony which is reclassified under this law is ranked one level higher on the Offence Severity Ranking Chart of the Florida Criminal Punishment Code. Therefore, a Defendant who is convicted under this enhancement provision faces a longer potential prison sentence.

Florida’s criminal sentencing laws are very complicated.  If you or a loved one have been charged with a crime, it is essential to have an experienced and knowledgeable Criminal Defense Attorney on your side.  Attorney Richard “Jake” Jackson has been serving the legal needs of the central Florida community since 1985.  Call for an appointment at (386) 738-1111.  Office in historic DeLand, Florida.  Appointments may also be arranged at a jail or correctional facility.

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