Possessing or Using a Firearm during a Felony

Being charged with committing any felony is a serious situation. But, under Florida’s 10-20-Life statute, the severity of the potential penalties increase significantly if a firearm is possessed or used during the commission of certain felonies.

Under Florida law, if during the commission of a felony the defendant “carries, displays, uses, threatens to use, or attempts to use any weapon or firearm,” the charge will be reclassified to a more serious offense. For example, a first degree felony is reclassified to a life felony. Importantly, this only applies to felonies in which the use of a weapon or firearm is not an essential element of the crime.

10-20-Life

Under the 10-20-Life statute, there are mandatory minimum sentences for committing or attempting to commit a felony while possessing or using a firearm, regardless of whether the use of a firearm is an element of the felony. Simply possessing a gun while committing or attempting to commit a felony will result in a minimum sentence of ten years in prison. However, if the felony was for aggravated assault, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, or burglary of a conveyance the minimum sentence is for three years.

A conviction for a felony or the attempt to commit a felony will result in a minimum sentence of 20 years if a firearm was discharged during the commission of the felony. Finally, if death or great bodily harm occurs as a result of the gun being fired, the minimum penalty is 25 years, with the possibility of a life sentence.

Self-defense Laws

Prior to the enactment of the “Warning Shot” bill, the 10-20-Life statute was being applied in cases involving self-defense. The bill amended several statutes in order to clarify that if the actual use of force was justified pursuant to self-defense, the threat of force is similarly legal. For example, the bill added to 776.012 the phrase “or threatening to use.” As a result, a person may use or threaten to use force when that person reasonably believes it to be necessary to defend against the imminent use of unlawful force.

Further, under the “Warning Shot” law, the court no longer needs to apply the mandatory minimum sentences of the 10-20-Life statute for a conviction of aggravated assault if it is found that:

  1. the defendant had a good faith belief that the aggravated assault was justifiable pursuant to the self-defense laws;
  2. the aggravated assault was not committed while in the course of committing another criminal offense;
  3. the defendant does not pose a threat to public safety; and
  4. the totality of the circumstances do not justify the imposition of the sentence.

As a result, the court now has some discretion in applying sentences for aggravated assault when the above elements are met. In these cases, the court no longer is required to follow the 10-20-life sentencing guidelines. It is important to keep in mind that under 776.032, a person is immune from criminal prosecution or civil action entirely if their use or threatened use of force falls within the self-defense statutes.

South Florida Defense Attorneys

Being charged under the 10-20-Life statute is a serious and complicated matter. If you have been accused of violating this law, it is crucial you speak with an experienced legal team. The South Florida defense attorneys at Farkas & Crowley, P.A. have the experience and expertise required to obtain the best possible outcome. Contact us today with any questions you may have.