Violent Crime Defense FAQ | Clearwater - Tampa

Over the years, Florida has cracked down on violent crime.  Punishment for these crimes may range from a lengthy term in prison to a sentence of death.  Some violent crimes (such as arson) may not involve a victim. Setting fire to one's own home is considered a violent crime even if no one is injured.

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Here are some common questions that our firm receives from clients involved in Violent Crime Defense cases:

What is the career criminal division in Pinellas County?

The career criminal division was created for Pinellas County offenders. If you qualify for specific Florida enhancements such as Prison Releasee Reoffender (PRR), Habitual Felony Offender (HFO), Habitual Violent Felony Offender (HVFO), Violent Career Criminal (VCC), or Three Time Violent Felony Offender (VFO), your case may be transferred to the designated career criminal division. For the state to seek these enhancements against an individual, proper notice must be filed.

Will I score prison?

If you have been notified that the state is seeking sentencing enhancements based on one of the above designations, certain minimum and/or maximum mandatory sentences will drive your sentence. The state may seek a sentence more than your guidelines.

What is 10-20-Life?

This law was created to deter violent felony offenders. It requires minimum mandatory sentences for individuals who use firearms during the commission of certain felony offenses. Producing a gun during the commission of certain felonies carries a 10-year minimum mandatory sentence. Firing a gun during the commission of certain felonies carries a 20-year minimum mandatory sentence. Discharge of a gun causing death or great bodily harm to another person carries a minimum penalty of 25 years up to life in prison.

What is considered a deadly weapon?

A deadly weapon is an item used or threatened to be used in a way likely to create great bodily harm or death. Firearms are considered deadly weapons. A baseball bat can be considered a deadly weapon even though it was not created for that purpose. A BB gun may also be considered a deadly weapon depending on how it is used.

What is the difference between minimum mandatory sentences and day for day sentences?

Unfortunately, there are certain crimes in the state of Florida that require minimum mandatory sentences upon conviction. Examples are trafficking in drugs and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. The difference between a drug trafficking minimum mandatory prison sentence and a felonious possession minimum mandatory sentence is that Florida law specifically states felonious possession sentences are not eligible for good and gain time. Therefore, someone serving a three-year “minimum mandatory” sentence on a drug trafficking will be released sooner than someone sentenced at the same time for a felonious possession. The felonious possession charge will require a three-year day for day minimum mandatory sentence with no good and gain time eligibility. If the statute specifically eliminates eligibility for good and gain time on a minimum mandatory prison sentence, the individual will serve day for day on that charge if convicted.

Can I be charged as a principal?

In Florida, you may be charged for the actions of another under certain circumstances. You may also be charged for the actions of your children under certain circumstances. An example of a principal situation is where someone serves as a look-out to an armed robbery. Even though the look-out may not have handled the gun involved or pointed it at anyone, he or she may still technically be charged as a principal to the armed robbery.

What is the sentence for a felon in possession of a firearm?

In the state of Florida, a convicted felon may not own or possess a firearm. If a convicted felon is found in possession of a firearm and subsequently convicted, the minimum mandatory sentence is 3 years. As discussed above, this is a day for day sentence because the legislature specifically states that anyone sentenced under this statute is not eligible for good and gain time.

Can a judge depart on a minimum mandatory sentence?

zThere are very few circumstances where a judge may depart on a minimum mandatory prison sentence. A judge may depart from a minimum mandatory prison sentence for some youthful offender sentences. Call our office or visit our alternative sentencing and jail diversion pages for more information on this topic.

Can the state waive a Prison Release Reoffender (PRR) sentence if I qualify for it?

The state may waive PRR in any case but if the state does not waive, the judge may not depart from the mandatory minimums that are required under this enhancement.

Is there any way to avoid being sentenced as Habitual Offender (HO) even if I qualify as an HO?

Sure, there are several ways to avoid being sentenced as an HO. A good attorney will carefully review your records and your charges to determine if you truly qualify for the HO designation. Sometimes, mistakes are made. If there has been a mistake, we will notify the state and demand a correction and removal of the enhancement. If the designation is not in error, we will further investigate you and your case to present mitigation to the Court. The imposition of an HO sentence is within the discretion of the judge.

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Powers Sellers & Finkelstein is committed to answering your questions about Criminal Defense law issues in Florida. We offer a free consultation and we'll gladly discuss your case with you at your convenience. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.