Court Vacates Enhanced Sentence as Illegal Following Florida Aggravated Battery Conviction

Florida sets forth sentencing guidelines that provide minimum sentences that must be imposed and allows for enhanced sentences if certain elements are met. The State bears the burden of proving that an enhanced sentence is appropriate, and an enhanced sentence imposed without justification may be vacated.

For example, a Florida District Court of Appeal recently vacated a life sentence that was imposed following a conviction for aggravated battery with a firearm, on the grounds that the State failed to provide sufficient evidence that a sentencing enhancement was proper. If you are a St. Petersburg resident and are facing criminal charges, it is in your best interest to speak with an experienced St. Petersburg criminal defense attorney to assist you in fighting to retain your rights.

The Defendant’s Conviction and Sentence  

Reportedly, the defendant was charged with attempted first-degree murder with a firearm and aggravated battery with a firearm. The jury found that the defendant had actual possession of a firearm and discharged the firearm, inflicting great bodily harm on his victims under both counts. The court subsequently sentenced the defendant to two concurrent life sentences under section 775.087(2), often referred to as the 10-20-Life statute, due to the fact that he was a prison releasee reoffender. The defendant filed a motion to correct the life sentence imposed on him as to the battery count, on the grounds that the sentence was illegal. The trial court denied his motion, after which the defendant appealed.

Enhanced Mandatory Sentence under the 10-20-Life Statute

On review, the court noted that if a defendant is convicted of aggravated battery with a firearm, he or she faces a minimum mandatory sentence under the 10-20-Life Statute. The statute provides that if a person actually possessed a firearm, he or she will be sentenced to a minimum of 10 years. If the person discharged the firearm during the commission of the crime, and as a result caused another person to suffer great bodily harm or death, he or she will be sentenced to a minimum of 25 years imprisonment and may face a sentence up to life in prison.

For an enhanced mandatory sentence to be imposed under the 10-20-Life statute, the State must precisely set forth the grounds for enhancing the sentence in the charging document. The failure of the State to precisely set forth the elements in the charging document cannot be cured by a jury’s factual findings. Further, if the State seeks to provide notice of the intent to seek an enhanced sentence by referring to a law in the charging document, the State has to indicate the specific provision that subjects the defendant to an enhanced sentence. In the subject case, the charging document alleged only that the defendant possessed a firearm, not that he discharged the firearm.  As the State failed to set forth grounds for the enhancement in the charging document, the enhanced sentence was illegal. Therefore, the court vacated the sentence and remanded for further proceedings.

 Schedule a Conference with a Skilled St. Petersburg Criminal Defense Attorney

If you are charged with a crime in St. Petersburg, it is important to know what penalties you may face if you are convicted and to retain a skilled St. Petersburg criminal defense attorney who will aggressively advocate on your behalf. William Hanlon of Hanlon Law is an experienced St. Petersburg criminal defense attorney who will work tirelessly to help you pursue a successful outcome under the facts of your case. Mr. Hanlon can be contacted at 727-897-5413 or through the online form to schedule a conference.

More Blog Posts:

Florida Court Finds 1000 Year Sentence with Parole Eligibility Provides A Meaningful Chance for Release within the Offender’s Life, December 28, 2018, St. Petersburg Sex Crimes Lawyer Blog