Florida's gun control law is one of the toughest in the nation. Since the passage of Florida Statute 775.087, also known as the 10/20/Life law, Florida's violent gun crime rate has dropped by 30%. The law itself seems fairly simple at first glance – it essentially mandates a minimum prison sentence of 10 years for using a gun in the commission of violent crimes. Look closer, however, and you will find a number of details and exceptions that become important if you are charged under Florida's 10/20/Life law. Retaining an experienced criminal defense attorney is the best way to take advantage of these exceptions and avail yourself of a fairer sentencing structure.
There are 18 crimes that are included in the 10/20/Life legislation. Determining that one of these crimes has been committed is a first and mandatory step to invoking the rest of the statute, so your work with your lawyer begins with a defense of the original act. The qualifying crimes are:
2. Sexual battery
6. Aggravated assault
7. Aggravated battery
10. Aircraft piracy
11. Aggravated child abuse
12. Aggravated abuse of an elderly person or disabled adult
13. Unlawful throw/place/discharge of destructive device or bomb
15. Home-invasion robbery
16. Aggravated stalking
17. Trafficking in controlled substance
18. Possession of a firearm by a felon
The key to enacting the 10/20/Life statute begins with what the law calls actual possession of a firearm. Many people believe that possession is enough to qualify you for the minimum 10-year bit in jail, but the truth is that there are some crimes in which possession only comes with the traditional 3-year sentence. These include aggravated assault, possession of a firearm by a felon, and burglary of a conveyance – all of which are considered lesser crimes, in terms of sentencing. If you possessed a firearm on your person in the commission of any of the other crimes, however, you are still facing a 10-year minimum stay in prison.
If the firearm discharges, it is a whole new ballgame. This is where the “20” comes in – discharge of a firearm amounts to a mandatory 20-year stay in prison. It is important to note that discharge doesn't imply any particular aim or intent to harm: fire the gun into the air to get everyone's attention, for instance, and Florida state law demands a 20-year prison sentence for that act alone. Obviously you want to mount a vigorous defense to any such charge, which is why it is important to retain an experienced criminal attorney from the start.
Still missing from this equation is the question of harm. Understanding Florida's 10/20/Life law requires that you understand all three tiers of sentencing, and we have arrived at the third: if you discharge a firearm in the commission of a crime and that bullet causes grave harm or death, the person who discharged the gun is facing 25 years to life, mandatory. Murder is almost always associated with a life sentence, while an aggravated assault may “only” come with a minimum of 25 years. The court does not get any discretion to sentence less than 25 years, and the defendant is not eligible for statutory gain-time or discretionary early release except for a pardon or conditional medical release prior to serving the minimum sentence.
Attorney Antonio Jimenez has been defending clients from the harsh sentencing of 10/20/Life for many years. As a former prosecutor he offers an uncommon level of commitment, experience, and resources. Contact Miami Criminal Defense Attorney Antonio G. Jimenez today for a consultation on your case.