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Understanding Florida's 10-20-Life law

Section 775.087 of the Florida Statutes has become widely known as the 10-20-Life law. Passed by the Florida State Legislature in 1999, this law sets forth the mandatory minimum prison sentence you will receive if a jury convicts you of using a firearm during the commission of a forcible felony.

Florida includes numerous violent crime felonies within the forcible felony category, including the following:

  • Murder
  • Aggravated assault
  • Carjacking
  • Home-invasion robbery
  • Kidnapping
  • Manslaughter

Three sentencing categories

As its name implies, the 10-20-Life law provides for the following three mandatory minimum sentences:

  1. Ten years in prison if you produce a gun or other “destructive device” during the commission of a qualifying felony
  2. Twenty years in prison if you fire a gun or set off a “destructive device” during the commission of a qualifying felony
  3. Twenty-five years to life in prison if you injure or kill someone by firing a gun or setting off a “destructive device” during the commission of a qualifying felony

If convicted of felony murder or first-degree murder, your maximum penalty could be the death penalty.

The 10-20-Life penalty comes in addition to whatever sentence you receive for your underlying felony conviction. You will need to serve both sentences consecutively (one after the other) rather than concurrently.

Exemptions and waivers

The prosecutor can waive the 10-20-Life mandatory minimum if (s)he thinks it advisable, but needless to say, few of them do. The only exemption to this law is if you are a youthful offender, i.e., someone who was 16 or 17 years old at the time you committed the violent crime and are no more than 20 years old at the time of your sentencing. Six years is the maximum penalty you can receive as a youthful offender, whether the judge sentences you to probation or actual imprisonment.

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