Florida’s 10-20-Life Law

By Lowry Law Firm | Posted on May 15, 2015

Now that it appears very likely that Jeb Bush will be running for President in 2016, you may be hearing quite a bit of talk in the coming months about the “10-20-Life” law. As governor of Florida, he championed this legislation and signed it into law, and you can expect him to bring it up on the campaign trail when he talks about his record on crime. But what does the law actually do?

Simply put, the law imposes mandatory minimum sentences for certain crimes involving firearms. (A mandatory minimum sentence means that anyone who is guilty of a particular crime must be sentenced to prison for at least a certain period of time. If the mandatory minimum sentence for a crime is 10 years, then if you are convicted of it, your sentence will be at least 10 years – it won’t matter if the judge or the jury think your sentence should be a lot shorter.)

The 10-20-Life law applies to all of the following types of felonies:

  • Murder;
  • Sexual battery;
  • Robbery;
  • Burglary;
  • Arson;
  • Aggravated assault;
  • 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;
  • Trafficking in certain kinds of drugs; and
  • Possession of a firearm by a felon.
The Mandatory Minimum Sentences

If you commit one of these offenses, and you are in possession of a firearm at the time of the offense, then the mandatory minimum sentence for your offense is 10 years. (There are a few exceptions – if the crime was aggravated assault, possession of a firearm by a felon, or burglary of a conveyance, then the mandatory minimum sentence is 3 years.)

If you commit any one of these offenses, and you are in possession of a firearm at the time of the offense, and you discharge the firearm at any time during the commission of the offense, then the mandatory minimum sentence is 20 years.

If you commit any one of these offenses, and you are in possession of a firearm at the time of the offense, and you discharge the firearm at any time during the commission of the offense, and the result of the discharge is that death or “great bodily harm” is inflicted upon someone, then the mandatory minimum sentence is 25 years.

Reclassification

Another aspect of the law that is less well-known is that it can “reclassify” a felony. If you display, use, threaten to use, or attempt to use any weapon or firearm while committing a crime – and using a weapon or firearm wasn’t already an essential part of the crime – then the felony will be reclassified.

This means that if the crime would otherwise be a first-degree felony, then it will be reclassified as a life felony. If it would otherwise be a second-degree felony, it will be reclassified as a first-degree felony. And if it would otherwise be a third-degree felony, then it will be reclassified as a second-degree felony.

Getting the Best Defense Possible

If you are charged with a firearm offense, the 10-20-Life law could make your sentence far harsher than it otherwise would be. It is essential that you get the best legal advice possible. You can contact the office of criminal defense attorney Mark S. Lowry of Fort Lauderdale today, by phone or by email.