Offenses involving firearms carry serious penalties and a thorough understanding of the law can be the key to a successful defense.
Florida's 10-20-Life Law
The Florida statute known as 10-20-Life applies to a person convicted of a felony committing while they had a firearm in their actual possession. The term “actual” is used to distinguish from possession which is merely “constructive,” meaning the person knows the firearm is in a place over which they have control, but the firearm is not on their person, in their hand, in their pocket, etc.
Which Felonies Fall Under 10-20-Life?
10-20-Life reclassifies the following list of felonies to a higher degree felony—this increases the maximum sentence:
- Sexual Battery
- Aggravated Battery
- Aircraft Piracy
- Aggravated Child Abuse
- Aggravated Abuse of an Elderly Person or Disabled Adult
- Unlawful throwing, placing, or discharging of a destructive device of bomb
- Home-invasion robbery
- Aggravated Stalking
- Trafficking in certain drugs (listed in Fla. Stat. §775.087(2)(a)1.p.)
- Felon in possession of a firearm
10-20-Life also increases the minimum sentence. A minimum 10-year prison sentence applies to the above list of felonies committed or attempted while the person actually possessed a firearm. There these 2 exceptions, which provide a 3-year instead of a 10-year minimum for mere actual possession:
- Felon in possession of a firearmà 3 year minimum sentence
- Burglary of a conveyance (i.e., car)à 3 year minimum sentence
Where the firearm possessed during that felony was discharged (fired), even accidentally, a minimum 20-year prison sentence is imposed.
Where the firearm is discharged and the bullet hits a person, the law requires a minimum 25-year prison sentence up to a possible life sentence. The law requires that “death or great bodily harm” be inflicted on the person shot, but this standard is usually met since being struck by a bullet usually causes serious injury.
The application of the 10-20-Life law produces harsh results. For example, an offender who intended only to use a gun during a robbery or other felony for purposes of fear or control will be sentenced to at least 25 years in prison if that gun accidentally goes off and shoots someone.
Self-Defense and Florida's Stand Your Ground Law
Florida's Stand Your Ground Law and other laws regarding self-defense can provide certain protections for individuals who use force to defend themselves from the threat of violence by others. Sometimes the police get in wrong when they respond to a call involving violence. Sometimes the police make the mistake of arresting the wrong person. Florida's Stand Your Ground Law can prevent a person from being prosecuted in certain situations and can be used by an experienced lawyer to shield a client from criminal prosecution altogether. Under recent changes to the law, the burden of proof is now on the prosecutor to prove that a person who claims self-defense under Florida's Stand Your Ground Law can be prosecuted. If you are charged with a crime of violence in Florida and you were defending yourself, you need an experienced defense attorney to defend you and protect your rights. Even if Florida's Stand Your Ground does not apply to the particular facts of your case, Florida's other self-defense laws may still provide a viable defense at trial.
Ms. Fore has a wealth of experience fighting the search and seizure of firearms as part of zealous advocacy on behalf of her clients. Her experience both at trial and in successful plea negotiations includes representing clients charged with felon in possession of a firearm, delinquent in possession of a firearm, minor in possession of a firearm, carrying a concealed firearm (still illegal if you are a person who is not allowed to have a firearm), public discharge of a firearm, shooting into an occupied structure or vehicle, and public discharge of a firearm.