The Armed Career Criminal Act is a federal law that imposes higher mandatory minimum punishments on defendants if they are convicted of certain crimes three or more times. As the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit recently pointed out, some Florida sex offenses may qualify for enhanced sentencing under the federal law. That’s yet another reason why anyone suspected of or charged with a sex offense in the Sunshine State is well advised to seek the counsel of an experienced criminal defense attorney.
A defendant pleaded guilty to possession of firearm by a convicted felon, a federal crime, after police officers in Miami found him with a revolver. Prosecutors eventually argued that he was subject to a mandatory 15-year sentence behind bars under the ACA. That’s because he had previously been convicted of sexual battery, aggravated assault, attempted sexual battery, kidnapping, and resisting an officer with violence. A trial judge agreed, finding that the prior offenses qualified as violent crimes under the ACA. The defendant was sentenced to 15 years in prison.
The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the conviction on appeal. The court explained that the ACA imposes a mandatory 15 years behind bars for a person convicted of being a felon in possession of a firearm if the person has three or more convictions for violent felonies or serious drug offenses. The sexual battery conviction qualified as a violent felony, even though it’s not among the list of violent offenses included in the text of the ACA, according to the court.
The appeals court said the defendant was convicted under the part of a Florida law that makes it illegal to commit sexual battery with a deadly weapon. In his case, he was accused of using a handgun to commit the crime. “Because [the defendant] was charged with sexual battery with a deadly weapon, the use or threatened use of a deadly weapon is an essential element of the crime of his conviction,” the court explained.
The court also rejected his argument that this particular crime could have been committed without the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical harm. It said standard jury instructions for the crime at the time he was charged made clear that prosecutors had to prove that he threatened to use the gun in order to be convicted. That was enough to qualify as a violent crime under the ACA, the court said.
If you or a loved one has been charged with a sex crime in Florida, it is essential that you seek the advice and counsel of an experienced lawyer. St. Petersburg sexual battery attorney Will Hanlon is a seasoned lawyer who fights aggressively on behalf of clients charged with a wide range of offenses. Call our offices at (727) 897-5413 or contact us online to speak with Mr. Hanlon about your case.
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