Florida Bill Introduced to Reform 10-20-Life Law

Post Date: September 27, 2013

Florida map2Florida’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 flaw in the status quo, Representative Neil Combee (R, Polk City) has filed HB 89, a bill aimed at restoring rights to defend “Life, Home, and Property.”

Specifically, HB 89 provides:

  • 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; and
  • 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.

To learn more about Florida’s sentencing laws, please visit FAMM’s Florida website