What are Sentencing Enhancements in Florida Criminal Cases?
As part of their efforts to crack down on certain offenders, Florida lawmakers have established a system of sentencing enhancements that impose stiffer penalties, mandatory minimum prison terms, or both. For repeat offenders convicted for designated crimes, Florida’s statute on enhancements can double or triple the amount of prison time, potentially even leading to a sentence of life in prison. When the mandatory minimum requirements apply, a judge does not have discretion to reduce the penalties.
If you were arrested for a crime and have a conviction on your criminal record, you may face sentencing enhancements if found guilty again. A Florida criminal defense attorney can explain how the laws work and advise you on your options, but an overview may be useful.
How Sentencing Enhancements Work: Before getting to the enhanced penalties, you should understand the default sentencing rules for first-time offenders. If convicted, a person faces:
- Up to 5 years in prison for a third degree felony;
- Up to 15 years’ incarceration for a second degree felony;
- Up to 30 years for a first degree felony; and,
- Life in prison for a capital or life felony.
Keep in mind that these are the maximum statutory sentences. A judge could issue a lower term of imprisonment, or could order probation, community service, or other punishment instead of prison time. Still, this sentencing structure is only for first-time offenders. For individuals convicted in the past on certain charges, these incarceration terms can increase significantly based upon your repeat offender designation.
Repeat Offender Designation for Sentencing Enhancements: The rules on eligibility for enhanced sentencing are detailed and complicated, but the general descriptions are:
Habitual Felony Offender (HFO): You fall under this category if you were convicted of two or more felony offenses as designated by law within five years after your release. HFO may also include individuals who were in prison for a prior conviction when committing the current offense.
Habitual Violent Felony Offender (HFVO): Your sentence may be enhanced if you have a previous conviction for certain violent crimes listed in the statute, including an attempt or conspiracy. Examples include aggravated crimes, rape, arson, manslaughter, and many others.
Violent Career Criminal (VCC): There are three qualifications for VCC status:
- Three or more adult convictions for designated offenses;
- The defendant has been incarcerated; AND,
- The defendant was convicted for the current crime within 5 years after being released or serving a sentence for a previous offense.
Prison Releasee Reoffender (PRR): You might have this status if your conviction in the current case involved certain crimes, and you were serving a sentence, escaped from prison, or committed it within three years after release on another crime.
Contact a Florida Criminal Defense Lawyer Right Away
Florida’s laws on sentencing enhancements are as complicated as they are harsh. As such, it is critical to retain experienced legal counsel if you might face a longer prison term or mandatory minimums. There may be strategies for defending the charges or other ways to obtain a favorable result. To learn how we can help, please contact Fort Lauderdale criminal attorney Kevin J. Kulik. We can schedule a confidential consultation at our office to review your circumstances and offer additional information.