The Impact of Florida’s 10-20-Life Law in Criminal Defense

The Impact of Florida’s 10-20-Life Law in Criminal Defense

While Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” laws allow law-abiding citizens to defend themselves, the Sunshine State’s 10-20-Life laws address the other end of the spectrum. Judges in Florida are required to use minimum sentencing guidelines for specific felony convictions that include firearms or other dangerous weapons. Individuals who possess or use a firearm during the commission of a crime face minimum sentences depending on the circumstances.

10-20 life law in criminal defense, criminal arrest

The original law was enacted in 1999 to combat gun crimes in Florida. While it has been successful, critics believe the law is harsh and over-arching. The law was updated in 2016 to remove aggravated assault and allow judges some discretion in sentencing For those facing criminal charges that include a firearm, the mandatory minimum sentence leaves no room for negotiation.

How It Works

The name refers to the minimum number of years a person can be jailed, depending on the circumstances:

  • Possession of or pulling out a firearm while committing certain felonies and the minimum sentence is 10 years
  • Discharge that firearm while committing certain felonies and the minimum sentence goes to 20 years
  • Injure or kill someone during the commission of the felony and the sentence can go up to life.

The law imposes these minimum sentences and does not allow judges leeway to change them based on the case’s circumstances. Even a first-time offender can find themselves with a harsh sentence.

Eligible Crimes

Under Florida Statutes §775.087, the conviction of any of these crimes falls under the 10-20-Life law if a firearm was included:

  • Aggravated abuse of an elderly person or disabled adult
  • Aggravated battery
  • Aggravated child abuse
  • Aggravated stalking
  • Aircraft piracy
  • Arson
  • Burglary
  • Carjacking
  • Drug trafficking
  • Escape
  • Home-invasion robbery
  • Human trafficking
  • Kidnapping
  • Murder
  • Possession of a firearm by a felon
  • Robbery
  • Sexual battery
  • Unlawful throwing, placing, or discharging of a destructive device or bomb

This law applies in addition to the initial crime. In other words, if someone is found guilty of a crime on the specified list, and it involves the use of a firearm, the 10-20-Life sentence is imposed alongside the primary sentence for the felony for which they were convicted.

One exception is that a judge can impose a minimum sentence of three years if a defendant is convicted of aggravated assault with a firearm, possession of a firearm by a felon, or burglary of a conveyance, i.e., a car, boat, or other type of vessel.

Defenses to 10-20-Life

A conviction that includes 10-20-Life sentences can mean very long sentences. With the help of one of our criminal defense attorneys, you may have some defenses, such as:

  • Self-defense
  • The weapon was obtained through an illegal search-and-seizure
  • No intent to use the firearm during the commission of a crime

Our attorneys will investigate your case and build a strong defense. Because we understand criminal law, we work to protect your rights and give you the best defense possible.


If you are charged with a firearm crime, call us immediately. The police are unconcerned with justice, only making arrests, and solving cases. We believe that you should consult with a criminal defense attorney anytime you are asked to speak to the police. Say nothing to them until you speak with us.

If you or a loved one has been arrested or accused of a crime, contact the criminal defense team of Farkas & Crowley as soon as possible. We are available 24/7, whenever you need us. Call (561)-444-9529 or contact us online to schedule your consultation.

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