Criminal offenses committed with firearms fall outside of the protections afforded by the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution. Although legal scholars disagree about what the drafters of the Constitution meant by the language they used when writing the Second Amendment, everyone agrees that the Second Amendment does not protect the person who employs a firearm to commit a crime.
Florida’s law, known as the “Stand Your Ground Law,” embodies the individual’s right to preserve life and limb guaranteed by the Second Amendment. While some people think that Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law implies Florida’s legislature tolerates gun crimes, the opposite is true. No civilized society can tolerate gun crimes, and Florida is no exception. If you are charged with a crime involving a firearm in Florida, you should expect the state’s attorney to come after you with a vengeance.
Common Firearms Offenses
Charges involving firearms could be divided into two categories. The first category is violent crimes like murder, manslaughter, assault with a firearm, armed kidnapping, armed sexual battery, armed burglary, armed robbery, shooting into a car or building, and armed kidnapping, to name a few.
The second category of firearms offenses involved possession of a firearm by a prohibited individual. A person carrying a concealed firearm without the proper permit, possession of a firearm by a felon, by a person engaging in drug distribution, or possession of a firearm as a juvenile could be convicted of a crime because Florida law prohibits that particular individual from possessing a firearm lawfully.
Even the mere mention of a firearm could elevate the penalty an offender faces. If a person makes a verbal threat, the offender could be convicted of a second-degree misdemeanor. That individual could serve up to 60 days in jail, receive probation, and suffer a fine. Brandishing a firearm while making that same threat enhances the penalty from a second-degree misdemeanor to a felony in the third-degree. The offender could potentially serve five years in Florida’s state prison because the presence of a firearm creates a more severe offense.
Florida is known for is so-called 10-20-Life law. Florida Statutes §775.087 gives the state’s attorney a mighty sword to wield when prosecuting firearms crimes in Florida. In essence, Florida’s 10-20-Life law the state’s codification of its “zero-tolerance policy” against gun crimes in the state.
Florida Statutes §775.087 establishes minimum-mandatory sentences for certain crimes committed or attempted with the aid of a firearm. The law’s minimum-mandatory law imposes the mandatory sentence even if the use of a firearm is not an element of the crime. For example, use of a firearm is not an element of the crime of murder. But the use of a firearm to commit murder obligates the court to impose a life sentence. Other crimes which fall under Florida’s 10-20-Life law are:
- Sexual battery,
- Aggravated child abuse,
- Aggravated abuse involving a Disabled Adult or Elderly Person,
- Aircraft Piracy,
- Discharging a Bomb or Destructive Device,
- Home Invasion Robbery,
- Drug Trafficking, and
- Felon in Possession of a Firearm.
Application of Florida’s 10-20-Life Law
If a person is convicted of felon in possession, burglary of a car, boat, or other conveyance, or aggravated assault, then the sentencing judge shall impose a three-year minimum-mandatory state prison sentence under the 10-20-Life law.
Florida’s 10-20-Life law mandates harsher sentences for more serious crimes. If the accused is convicted of any of the violent crimes listed while in possession of a firearm, then the court must impose a 10-year minimum-mandatory prison sentence. If the crime was committed with a semi-automatic pistol, then the minimum-mandatory punishment is 15 years in state prison. The minimum-mandatory term increases to 20 years in prison if the accused discharged the firearm during the commission of the crime. The minimum-mandatory sentence would elevate to 25 years to life if someone were shot or killed during the commission of the offense,
The court must impose the minimum-mandatory sentence. Even if the defense presents mitigating circumstances or the person accused has no previous criminal history, the judge has no alternative to imposing the minimum-mandatory sentence. Conversely, the judge could hand down a significantly harsher sentence than the minimum-mandatory term. Florida law conveys the trial judge with significant discretion to impose a longer sentence up to the maximum permitted by statute if the facts and circumstances warrant.
A person serving a minimum-mandatory term is ineligible for early release, probation, pardon, suspended release, medical release, or pardon until the offender serves the minimum term imposed by statute.
Florida’s Habitual Offender Law
Florida Statutes §775.084 creates the state’s Habitual Felony Offender law. The state’s attorney can pursue an enhanced prison sentence for an offender accused of committing two or more felonies or other qualifying offenses as a habitual felony offender. The person could be accused as a habitual felony offender when the person committed the latest felony offense while incarcerated, on probation, or under community control, or the person committed the latest felony within the first five years after release from prison, probation, or conditional release.
If a person qualifies to be labeled as a habitual felony offender, then the court can impose double the sentence required by the sentencing guidelines or any minimum-mandatory sentence permitted by law. The judge could impose longer sentences if the offender requires such harsh punishment.
A couple of examples of how Florida’s Habitual Felony Offender law works will illustrate the draconian results that the law dictates. A person charged with a third-degree felony in Florida faces a maximum of five years in state prison. However, if the person meets the definition of a habitual felony offender, then the judge could impose a ten-year sentence. Moreover, the person would be ineligible for release until serving at least five years. Similarly, if a person is convicted of a second-degree felony and faces up to fifteen years of incarceration, application of the habitual felony offender law would double the sentence to 30 years. The offender could not be freed from prison unless the person serves ten years.
Musca Law: Defending the Rights of People Facing Enhanced Sentences
Not every person charged with a crime deserves to be thrown in prison for decades. At Musca Law, we know that every person has a story. Our mission is to show the court that our clients should be seen as an individual with a unique background rather than being shackled with a label that practically guarantees a long, hard prison term. Call us right away at (888) 484-5057 to speak with us about your case if you face enhanced penalties in Florida.