New Law Amends Minimum Mandatory Sentencing Law in Florida
In July, a new law went into effect that made a significant change to mandatory minimum sentences for aggravated assault. The new law could have important repercussions for those convicted of assault in Florida, so if you or a loved one were recently charged with aggravated assault, it is critical to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney who can ensure that your rights are protected.
According to the new law, aggravated assault is now no longer included on the list of gun-related crimes which require an automatic minimum mandatory prison sentence of 20 years if one of the following scenarios applies:
- During the commission of the offense the convicted person possessed a firearm or destructive device; or
- During the commission of the offense the convicted person possessed a semiautomatic firearm and its high-capacity detachable box magazine or a machine gun.
The new law’s passage is part of a growing trend away from setting minimum mandatory sentencing laws, which have proven to produce arbitrary and often unjust penalties as well as overcrowded prisons.
The mandatory minimum sentencing law, known as 10-20-Life law was passed in reaction to a string of gun-related crimes in the 1990’s. Under the terms of the law, judges were given no discretion in sentencing certain crimes. As a result, they were required to hand down ten year sentences to defendants who displayed a gun during an assault and 20 year sentences if the gun was fired. Shockingly, this even included situations where a homeowner fired a gun as a warning shot and not at an individual. One notable case demonstrating the arbitrary nature of the law occurred in 2008 and involved a father firing a warning shot in his home to frighten his teenage daughter’s unwelcome boyfriend into leaving. Because it fell within the parameters of the 10-20-Life law, the man was sentenced to 20 years in prison. If someone had been injured in the encounter, the man would have faced a 25 year sentence.
Critics have long decried the overcrowding in prisons caused by the harsh sentencing law, but it wasn’t until legislators received a recommendation from the Task Force on Citizen Safety and Protection that steps were taken to address the unintended results of the law. The new law gives judges across Florida much more flexibility in sentencing those convicted of gun-related crimes, allowing them to take mitigating circumstances into consideration when determining a sentence. Unfortunately, the new law will not be retroactive and so will not affect anyone previously incarcerated under the 10-20-Life law.
Contact an Experienced South Florida Criminal Defense Attorney Today
Florida’s harsh minimum sentencing laws have resulted in many men and women being sent to prison for extended periods of time for the commission of non-serious felonies. Fortunately, the new law will go a long way towards ensuring fairer sentences, so if you are being investigated for or have been charged with aggravated assault, it is vital to retain the services of an experienced criminal defense attorney who is familiar with the new laws and how they will affect you. Please contact Jeffrey S. Weiner, P.A. Criminal Defense Attorneys at 305-670-9919 to schedule a free consultation.