How Firearms Affect Your Sentencing
In many ways, Florida seems like a refuge for gun enthusiasts. With a strong Stand Your Ground law, an open carry law on the books, a healthy hunting grounds, Florida has a healthy relationship with firearms. However, the state also takes the unlawful possession or use of firearms very seriously.
If you are charged with a criminal offense and are believed to have had a firearm in your possession or to have used a firearm in the commission of the offense, the severity of your charges may be increased, leading to a lengthier sentence if you are found guilty.
In this article, we’ll discuss how firearms affect your sentencing and the best way to protect yourself should this situation ever arise.
What Are Firearm Enhancements in Florida?
In the case of a felony where a gun is not an essential part of the crime, firearm enhancement offers specific guidelines for increasing the penalty of particular crimes. Anytime these felonies are charged, your sentencing can increase in severity when you carry, display, use, threaten to use, or try to use the gun in the crime. For crimes in which the weapon is essential, the elevated consequences are already present.
How Do Firearms Affect Sentencing?
Firearms in Florida immediately enhance certain crimes and charges, making the charges and their corresponding punishments more severe.
If a firearm is involved in a certain set of specified offenses, then the maximum possible penalty goes up. In these cases, the maximum might still not be given by a judge, but it is a possibility.
Statute 775.087, which pertains to the possession or use of a weapon during an aggravated battery, explains it thus:
(1) Unless otherwise provided by law, whenever a person is charged with a felony, except a felony in which the use of a weapon or firearm is an essential element, and during the commission of such felony the defendant carries, displays, uses, threatens to use, or attempts to use any weapon or firearm, or during the commission of such felony the defendant commits an aggravated battery, the felony for which the person is charged shall be reclassified as follows:
(a) In the case of a felony of the first degree, to a life felony.
(b) In the case of a felony of the second degree, to a felony of the first degree.
(c) In the case of a felony of the third degree, to a felony of the second degree.
For example, the maximum sentence for a first-degree felony is 30 years in prison. When a firearm is used, the charge is increased, and the maximum punishment becomes a life sentence. Even a third-degree felony can be upgraded from a maximum of five years to a maximum of 15 years when a gun is present during the commission of a crime. This automatically increases the severity of the crime and makes it imperative that you seek a good Tampa defense lawyer.
In many cases with firearms in Florida, judges can express certain levels of subjectivity in their rulings. For example, if a gun is used in a sexual assault, a judge is likely to be harsh. If a firearm is present during the commission of a less violent offense, then the judge may rule differently. Either way, the judge has the final say on just how high they want to go as they approach the extended maximum sentence.
Do Firearms Affect Mandatory Minimum Sentencing?
Let’s say you’re charged with a drug crime. This offense carries a mandatory minimum sentence in the state of Florida. This means that if you’re found guilty of that offense, you will at least be sentenced to the mandatory minimum.
When a firearm is added to the mix, increasing the maximum allowable penalty, how does it affect the mandatory minimum?
Mandatory minimums essentially deal with the bottom end of the sentencing spectrum. They represent the baseline minimum sentence that guidelines allow. If a charge is increased from a third-degree felony to a second-degree felony because of a firearm, the minimum sentence will also increase.
Firearm enhancement deals with the top end of the punishment spectrum—allowing for a higher punishment. This means that while a judge can sentence an individual to the mandatory minimum for the increased charge, they can also sentence them to a much more severe penalty.
Can I Defend Myself Against a Firearm Enhancement Charge?
It is never advised that an individual represent themselves in a court of law. It’s crucial to put a defense together that includes legal reasoning, not just excuses or storytelling.
When you hire a good Tampa defense lawyer, they will help determine your defense based on legal precedent and their in-depth knowledge of the legal system.
They may try to show that you had a legal right to carry the weapon and that it was not used or was not intended to be used during the commission of an illegal act.
Alternatively, they may challenge the possession of the gun. If a gun has been found at a scene, for example, it may be possible to show that the defendant was not in possession of it and that it belonged to someone else.
The goal when defending against a firearm enhancement is to separate the firearm from the offense or to challenge its presence in the proceedings in the first place. To do this, you need a qualified lawyer.
Some defendants see their situation as a closed case. Things can seem grim when you combine a mandatory minimum and an elevated maximum sentence. But a solid legal defense is the only chance many defendants have. Who do Florida residents trust when they need someone in their corner? Mike G Law.
You Need Mike G Law in your Corner. Call Today!
There are plenty of people in prison because they didn’t get the right team behind them to help protect their rights and keep their freedoms. Fight for your future—call Mike G Law today.
As a former prosecutor, Mike G understands the subjective nature of firearm enhancement and will work hard on your behalf to secure the best possible outcome for your case. Don’t delay—get justice. Schedule a consultation now.