Florida 10-20-Life Reform Bill

Post Date: March 7, 2013

Florida’s “10-20-Life” law was intended to cover violent and repeat felons who used firearms to commit their crimes. It provides that if an offender displays a firearm during the commission of one of the relevant felonies, the mandatory minimum sentence is three years. If the gun is fired, the mandatory minimum is 20 years. And if anyone is injured or killed, the mandatory minimum is 25 years to life.

Predictably, 10-20-Life has had severe unintended consequences and has been used in cases far removed from the original intent of the legislature when it passed the bill in 1999. For instance, one of the relevant felonies that fall under 10-20-Life is “aggravated assault.” Unfortunately, the law has allowed prosecutors to charge defendants with aggravated assault for either brandishing a firearm or firing a warning shot in defense of themselves or others. As several of our profile cases show, if a defendant is convicted on these charges, the judge has no choice but to impose a mandatory minimum prison sentence.

To correct this obvious flaw with the status quo, FAMM partnered with Florida-based self-defense and Second Amendment advocacy group Florida Carry to write a bill that would restore the original intent of 10-20-Life and provide a safety valve that would allow judges to depart from 10-20-Life’s mandatory minimums in cases of citizens who believed they were defending themselves. Click here to read FAMM’s fact sheet on the bill.

Specifically, the bills (HB 1047 by Rep. Neil Combee and SB 1446 by Senator Thad Altman) provide:

  • That the legislature finds it is unreasonable to prosecute someone for acting in a defensive manner;
  • That a “warning shot” is a valid method of preventing or terminating an imminent or actual violent criminal attack;
  • Immunization from prosecution for anyone who acts in defense of life, home, or property by either defensively displaying a firearm or firing a warning shot.

Further, with respect to reforming 10-20-Life, the bills provide:

  • That the legislature does not intend 10-20-Life to apply to persons who  act in self-defense or defense of another; and that
  • Judges can depart from the mandatory minimum sentences under 10-20-Life if a defendant is charged with aggravated assault or aggravated battery, provided that the court also finds that:
    • The defendant did not act in furtherance of another criminal act;
    • The defendant established a prima facie case that the alleged act was committed with defensive intent; and
    • The mandatory minimum sentence is not compelled for the protection of the public.

This bill will go a long way to preventing future injustices by the broad and inappropriate use of 10-20-Life by overzealous prosecutors. Both the House and Senate bills have been referred to committees but neither has been scheduled for a hearing. Please feel free to contact FAMM Florida Project Director at 352.682.2542 or at gnewburn@famm.org with any questions.

Click here to read FAMM’s fact sheet on the bill.