Florida Mandatory Minimum Sentences for Weapons Charges – What You Need to Know

By Lowry Law Firm | Posted on January 8, 2015

Weapons charges pose a serious threat to every gun owner across the country. Florida’s mandatory minimum sentencing laws, however, should make Florida gun owners particularly concerned.

The 10-20-Life Law

The “10-20-Life” statute forces Florida judges to come down hard on those facing certain weapons-related charges. Basically, this 10-20-Life law means that anyone charged with committing or attempting to commit certain listed criminal offenses while also in possession of a firearm can be given a 10-year minimum and mandatory sentence. A handful of those specific offenses where the minimum mandatory sentencing will apply include aggravated assault, burglary, and trafficking in a controlled substance.

The “mandatory minimum” language means that judges have no discretion when it comes to sentencing –if the offense is listed in the statute and a gun was involved, you will be facing the 10 years behind bars. If the weapon involved was discharged for any reason, the penalty increases to a minimum of 20 years in prison. If the weapon possessed during the crime happened to be a semiautomatic weapon, the sentencing automatically increases to 15 years in prison. If anyone is injured or killed as a result of discharging the weapon during the commission of one of those listed crimes, the penalty becomes 25 years in prison. It is important to understand that a discharge includes more than just firing at another person; it includes firing the weapon into the air, into the ground, or other ways that may be merely a warning shot.

Real People Facing Mandatory Minimum Sentencing

If you think that these laws are only applied to serious hardened criminals, think again. Just a few of the people facing time in prison due to the 10-20-Life laws include:

  • Marla Diane Swearingen – a 50-year-old grandmother who fired a warning shot into the air in an attempt to diffuse a fight between her current husband and ex-husband.
  • Ronald Thompson – a 62-year-old disabled veteran who fired warning shots into the ground when a friend of his became involved in a heated argument with her grandson that was told to stay away from her property and had allegedly physically injured his grandmother prior to the argument.
  • Lee Wollard – a father in his 50s who fired his gun into the wall during a physical fight with his daughter’s allegedly abusive boyfriend after first breaking up a heated argument between the boyfriend and his daughter.
How to Protect Yourself

If you own a weapon in the state of Florida, it is important that you understand your rights and the penalties you could face for a weapons charge. The severity of these minimum mandatory sentencing laws means that it is absolutely crucial for you or anyone you know facing weapons charges to consult an experienced criminal defense lawyer. The Law Office of Mark S. Lowry in Florida can help fight any weapons charge brought against you that could put you in danger of facing serious time in prison. Call us today to discuss how best to fight the charges and keep you out of jail.