Minimum Mandatory Sentences

Broward County Criminal Defense Attorney explains Florida’s Minimum Mandatory Sentences…by Neil C. Kerch

Often, I am asked, “How can I get around the minimum mandatory sentence?” Florida has minimum mandatory sentences that judges cannot usually override.  Some examples of Florida Mandatory Minimum Sentences for First-Time Offenders:

  • Aggravated assault with a firearm (10-20-Life offense): Three years
  • Armed burglary, including armed breaking and entering a car (10-20-Life offense): 10 years
  • Felon in possession of a firearm: Three years
  • Heroin, cocaine or oxycodone possession: Less than 14 grams, three years; more than 14 grams, 15 years; more than 28 grams, 25 years
  • Possession, cultivation of marijuana with intent to distribute: Three years

Examples of Florida Mandatory Minimum Sentences for Repeat Offenders:

  • Repeat murder or homicide: Life imprisonment
  • Repeat first-degree felony: 30 years
  • Repeat second-degree felony: 15 years
  • Repeat first-degree misdemeanor: One year
  • Repeat second-degree misdemeanor: 60 days

Minimum mandatory sentences are among the most counterproductive and they are basically laws created by people who have no idea about the details of the particular cases, and they take the discretion away from the people who know the facts of the case the most and the circumstances of the parties the most. They also give tremendous power to the police and the prosecutor that can be abused to leverage pleas and harsh sentences in cases and against people who do not deserve them.

A recent case of the 4thDistrict Court of Appeals reversed a downward departure, whereby the Trial Judge granted a downward departure motion and waived the minimum mandatory sentence without legal justification. The State appealed and was successful in having the case remanded.  The Appeals court stated that  Trial courts have no discretion to grant a motion for downward departure when the conviction implicates the (10-20-Life offense) Florida Statute 775.087(2).

Although the Court did not have discretion in this case, there are limited ways to avoid a minimum mandatory sentence.  One of the ways to avoid a minimum mandatory sentence is through the youthful offender statutes.  Another way is to have an reputable, experienced, professional and personable attorney negotiate with the State Attorney’s Office.  Over the course of my legal career I have successfully negotiated resolutions that waive the minimum mandatory sentences in Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade Counties.  If you are facing a sentence that involves the imposition of a minimum mandatory sentence, you can contact Broward Criminal Defense Attorney Neil Kerch.  I have the professional resources and experience to help you fight for the best possible outcome.


174 So. 3d 488

Criminal law — Sentencing — Mandatory minimum — 10-20-Life law — Trial court had no discretion to grant downward departure from three-year mandatory minimum sentence under 10-20-Life law where defendant used firearm during aggravated assault

STATE OF FLORIDA, Appellant, v. STEVEN RAY BRAY, Appellee. 4th District. Case Nos. 4D13-4771 and 4D14-441. August 19, 2015. Consolidated appeals from the Circuit Court for the Nineteenth Judicial Circuit, St. Lucie County; Gary L. Sweet, Judge; L.T. Case No. 562013CF000690A. Counsel: Pamela Jo Bondi, Attorney General, Tallahassee, and Laura Fisher, Assistant Attorney General, West Palm Beach, for appellant. Carey Haughwout, Public Defender, and Emily Ross-Booker, Assistant Public Defender, West Palm Beach, for appellee.

(MAY, J.) In these consolidated appeals, the defendant appeals his conviction for aggravated assault with a firearm. The State appeals the defendant’s downward departure sentence for that conviction. The defendant argues the prosecutor’s comments in closing argument constituted fundamental error. We disagree and affirm his conviction. The State argues the trial court erred when it failed to impose the three-year mandatory minimum sentence under the 10-20-Life statute. The defendant candidly admits the sentencing error. We therefore affirm the defendant’s conviction in case number 14-0441, but reverse the defendant’s sentence in case number 13-4771, and remand the case to the trial court for resentencing.

The facts underlying the charge and trial are largely irrelevant to our decision. The State charged the defendant by information with aggravated assault with a firearm. The jury convicted the defendant as charged. The trial court adjudicated him guilty, but granted a downward departure motion and sentenced him to one year in county jail, two years’ community control, and two years’ probation over the State’s objection.

In the State’s appeal, it argues the trial court erred when it failed to impose the mandatory minimum sentence under section 775.087(2), Florida Statutes (2013), due to the defendant’s use of a firearm during the aggravated assault. The defendant candidly agrees. Trial courts have no discretion to grant a motion for downward departure when the conviction implicates section 775.087(2). State v. Vanderhoff, 14 So. 3d 1185, 1189 (Fla. 5th DCA 2009) (“The 10/20/Life statute, section 775.087(2), Florida Statutes (2005), removed most sentencing discretion from the judicial branch, and instead, placed it in the executive branch by establishing a mandatory minimum sentencing scheme.”).

We find no merit in the defendant’s appeal of his conviction. We reverse his sentence on the State’s appeal, and remand the case to the trial court to re-sentence the defendant in accordance with section 775.087(2), Florida Statutes (2013).

Affirm Case No. 14-0441. Reverse and Remand on Case No. 13-4771. (WARNER and KLINGENSMITH, JJ., concur.)


This Post is informational in nature and is not intended to provide or substitute for legal advice.  Each case is unique and should be evaluated by a Criminal Defense Attorney.

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