10-20-Life Defense in St. Petersburg

  • Generally

Many of Florida's sentencing enhancement provisions apply to recidivist felony offenders, and particularly those who have been released from prison or other sanction (such as probation) within a certain period of time. 10-20-Life is different in that it applies to almost any felony offense wherein a weapon or firearm is used during its commission. 10-20-Life has three main components.

The first component pertains to (1) the commission of a felony wherein the use of a weapon or firearm is not an element of the offense, but a weapon or firearm is used during the commission of the offense regardless; or (2) the commission of a felony wherein the defendant also commits an aggravated battery. Under these circumstances, the offense is reclassified, as set forth in greater detail below. For purposes of 10-20-Life, reclassification increases the minimum sentencing guideline score and the statutory maximum; it does not involve the imposition of a minimum mandatory sentence. Guideline sentences and minimum mandatory sentences differ in that the court has much more discretion to deviate from a guideline score than a minimum mandatory sentence. Generally speaking, only the State Attorney has the authority to deviate from a minimum mandatory sentence.

The second main component of 10-20-Life pertains to offenders who possess or discharge a firearm or destructive device during the commission of certain felonies, including situations wherein the discharge causes death or great bodily harm. Qualifying offenses include, primarily, forcible felonies and drug trafficking offenses. Those who possess a firearm or destructive device during the commission of an enumerated crime are subject to a 10 year minimum mandatory sentence. There is however, an exception for those who: (1) commit a burglary to a conveyance; or (2) possess a firearm as a convicted felon. Here, the applicable minimum mandatory is 3 years as opposed to 10. If the person commits an enumerated felony and discharges a firearm, he or she is subject to a 20 year min. man. If the discharge results in death or great bodily harm, the person is subject to a min. man. that is not less than 25 years, nor more than life. Prior to July 1st, 2016, a person who actually possessed a firearm during the commission of an aggravated assault was subject to a three year minimum mandatory sentence. If the person discharged the firearm, he or she was subject to a twenty year minimum mandatory sentence. For aggravated assault offenses committed on or after July 1st, 2016, 10-20-Life does not apply and there are no longer any applicable minimum mandatory sentences.

The third main component of 10-20-Life pertain to offenders who possess or discharge a semi automatic firearm with a high capacity box magazine or a machine gun. A person who possess such a weapon during the commission of an enumerated felony is subject to a 15 year minimum mandatory sentence. The penalties for discharge and discharge resulting in death or great bodily harm are the same as those involving a firearm or destructive device: a 20 year min. man. and 25 to life, respectively.

By law, the court is precluded from suspending or deferring sentence, and from withholding adjudication of guilt when imposing a 10-20-Life sentence. Also, the person is ineligible for any sort of gain time or discretionary early release while serving the minimum mandatory portion of his or her sentence. If the minimum mandatory sentence exceeds either the person's sentencing guidelines score or the statutory maximum, the minimum mandatory trumps. Finally, the court is required to impose any term of imprisonment, for any other felony offense before it for sentencing, consecutive to the minimum mandatory sentence.

This section provides an overview of Florida's 10-20-Life law and a list of additional resources to provide an in depth understanding of its provisions.

  • Applicable Florida Statutes

The following is a list of Florida statutes that pertain to the 10-20-Life sentencing enhancement:

  • Florida statute section 775.087 (10-20-Life) provides as follows:

(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 defendant 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 purposes of sentencing under chapter 921 and determining incentive gain-time eligibility under chapter 944, a felony offense which is reclassified under this section is ranked one level above the ranking under s. 921.0022, or s. 921.0023 of the felony offense committed.

(2)(a)1. Any person who is convicted of a felony or an attempt to commit a felony, regardless of whether the use of a weapon is an element of the felony, and the conviction was for: a. Murder; b. Sexual battery; c. Robbery; d. Burglary; e. Arson; f. Aggravated assault (for offenses committed pre-July 1st, 2016 only); g. Aggravated battery; h. Kidnapping; i. Escape; j. Aircraft piracy; k. Aggravated child abuse; l. Aggravated abuse of an elderly person; m. Unlawful throwing, placing, or discharging of a destructive device or bomb; n. Carjacking; o. Home-invasion robbery; p. Aggravated Stalking; q. Trafficking in cannabis, trafficking in cocaine, capital importation of cocaine, trafficking in illegal drugs, capital importation of illegal drugs, trafficking in phencyclidine, capital importation of phencyclidne; trafficking in methaqualone, capital importation of methaqualone, trafficking in amphetamine, capital importation of amphetamine, trafficking in flunitrazepam, trafficking in gamma-hydroxybutyric acid (GHB), trafficking in 1,4-Butanediol, trafficking in Phenethylamines, or other violation of s. 893.135(1); or q. Possession of a firearm by a felon, and during the commission of the offense, such person actually possessed a "firearm" or "destructive device" as those terms are defined in s. 790.001, shall be sentenced to a minimum term of imprisonment of 10 years, except that a person who is convicted of aggravated assault, possession of a firearm by a felon, or burglary of a conveyance shall be sentenced to a minimum term of imprisonment of 3 years if such person possessed a "firearm" or "destructive device" during the commission of the offense. However, if an offender who is convicted of the offense of possession of a firearm by a felon has a previous conviction of committing or attempting to commit a felony listed in s. 775.084(1)(b)1. and actually possessed a firearm or destructive device during the commission of the prior felony, the offender shall be sentenced to a minimum term of imprisonment of 10 years. 2. Any person who is convicted of a felony or an attempt to commit a felony listed in subparagraphs (a)1.a.-q., regardless of whether the use of a weapon is an element of the felony, and during the commission of the felony, the person discharged a "firearm" or "destructive device" as defined in s. 790.001 shall be sentenced to a minimum term of imprisonment of 20 years. 3. Any person who convicted of a felony or an attempt to commit a felony listed in subparagraphs (a)1.a.-q. regardless of whether the use of a weapon is an element of the felony, and during the course of the commission of the felony, such person discharged a "firearm" or "destructive device" as defined in s. 790.001 and, as a result of the discharge, death or great bodily harm was inflicted upon any person, the convicted person shall be sentenced to a minimum term of imprisonment of not less than 25 years nor more than life in prison. (b) Subparagraph (a)1., subparagraph (a)2., or subparagraph (a)3. does not prevent a court from imposing a longer sentence of incarceration as authorized by law in addition to the minimum mandatory sentence, or for imposing a sentence of death pursuant to other applicable law. Subparagraph (a)1., subparagraph (a)2., or subparagraph (a)3. does not authorize a court to impose a lesser sentence than otherwise required by law. Notwithstanding s. 948.01, adjudication of guilt or imposition of sentence shall not be suspended, deferred, or withheld and the defendant is not eligible for statutory gain time under s. 944.275 or any form of discretionary early release, other than pardon or executive clemency, or conditional medical release under s. 947.149, prior to serving the minimum sentence. (c) If the minimum mandatory terms of imprisonment imposed pursuant to this section exceed the maximum sentences authorized by s. 775.082, s. 775.084, or the Criminal Punishment Code under chapter 921, then the sentence imposed by the court must include the mandatory term of imprisonment as required in this section. (d) It is the intent of the legislature that offenders who actually possess, carry, display, use, threaten to use, or attempt to use firearms or destructive devices be punished to the fullest extent of the law, and the minimum terms of imprisonment imposed pursuant to this subsection shall be imposed for each qualifying felony count foe which the person is convicted. The court shall impose any term of imprisonment provided for in this subsection consecutively to any other term of imprisonment imposed for any other felony offense.

(3)(a)1. Any person who is convicted of a felony or an attempt to commit a felony, regardless of whether the use of a weapon is an element of the felony, and the conviction was for: a. Murder; b. Sexual battery; c. Robbery; d. Burglary; e. Arson; f. Aggravated assault; g. Aggravated battery; h. Kidnapping; i. Escape; j. Sale, manufacture or delivery, or intent to sell, manufacture, or deliver any controlled substance; k. Aircraft piracy; l. Aggravated child abuse; m. Aggravated abuse of an elderly person; n. Unlawful throwing, placing, or discharging of a destructive device or bomb; o. Carjacking; p. Home-invasion robbery; q. Aggravated Stalking; r. Trafficking in cannabis, trafficking in cocaine, capital importation of cocaine, trafficking in illegal drugs, capital importation of illegal drugs, trafficking in phencyclidine, capital importation of phencyclidne; trafficking in methaqualone, capital importation of methaqualone, trafficking in amphetamine, capital importation of amphetamine, trafficking in flunitrazepam, trafficking in gamma-hydroxybutyric acid (GHB), trafficking in 1,4-Butanediol, trafficking in Phenethylamines, or other violation of s. 893.135(1); or q. Possession of a firearm by a felon, and during the commission of the offense, such person possessed a semi-automatic firearm and its high capaicty detachable box magazine or a machine gun as defined in s. 790.001, shall be sentenced to a minimum term of imprisonment of 15 years. 2. Any person who is convicted of a felony or an attempt to commit a felony listed in subparagraphs (a)1.a.-q., regardless of whether the use of a weapon is an element of the felony, and during the commission of the felony, the person discharged a semi automatic firearm and its high capacity box magazine or a machine gun as defined in s. 790.001 shall be sentenced to a minimum term of imprisonment of 20 years. 3. Any person who convicted of a felony or an attempt to commit a felony listed in subparagraphs (a)1.a.-q. regardless of whether the use of a weapon is an element of the felony, and during the course of the commission of the felony, such person discharged a semi automatic firearm and its high capacity box magazine, or a machine gun as defined in s. 790.001 and, as a result of the discharge, death or great bodily harm was inflicted upon any person, the convicted person shall be sentenced to a minimum term of imprisonment of not less than 25 years nor more than life in prison. (b) Subparagraph (a)1., subparagraph (a)2., or subparagraph (a)3. does not prevent a court from imposing a longer sentence of incarceration as authorized by law in addition to the minimum mandatory sentence, or for imposing a sentence of death pursuant to other applicable law. Subparagraph (a)1., subparagraph (a)2., or subparagraph (a)3. does not authorize a court to impose a lesser sentence than otherwise required by law. Notwithstanding s. 948.01, adjudication of guilt or imposition of sentence shall not be suspended, deferred, or withheld and the defendant is not eligible for statutory gain time under s. 944.275 or any form of discretionary early release, other than pardon or executive clemency, or conditional medical release under s. 947.149, prior to serving the minimum sentence. (c) If the minimum mandatory terms of imprisonment imposed pursuant to this section exceed the maximum sentences authorized by s. 775.082, s. 775.084, or the Criminal Punishment Code under chapter 921, then the sentence imposed by the court must include the mandatory term of imprisonment as required in this section. (d) It is the intent of the legislature that offenders who possess, carry, display, use, threaten to use, or attempt to use a semi automatic firearm and its high capacity detachable box or a machine gun as defined in s. 790.001 be punished to the fullest extent of the law, and the minimum terms of imprisonment imposed pursuant to this subsection shall be imposed for each qualifying felony count foe which the person is convicted. The court shall impose any term of imprisonment provided for in this subsection consecutively to any other term of imprisonment imposed for any other felony offense. (e) As used in this subsection, the term: 1. "High capacity detachable box magazine" means any detachable box magazine, for use in a semi automatic firearm, which is capable of being loaded with more than 20 center fire cartridges, 2. "Semiautomatic firearm" means a firearm which is capable of firing a series of rounds by separate successive depressions of the trigger and which uses the energy of discharge to perform a portion of the operating cycle.

(4) For purposes of the imposition of the minimum mandatory sentencing provisions of this section, with respect to a firearm, the term "possession" is defined as carrying it on the person. Possession may also be proven by demonstrating that the defendant had the firearm within immediate physical reach with ready access with the intent to use the firearm during the commission of the offense, if proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

(5) This section does not apply to law enforcement officers or to United States military personnel who are performing their lawful duties or who are traveling to or from their places of employment or assignment to perform their lawful duties.

(6) Notwithstanding s. 27.366, the sentencing court shall not impose the mandatory minimum sentence required by subsection (2) or (3) for a conviction for aggravated assault if the court makes written findings that: (a) The defendant had a good faith belief that the aggravated assault was justifiable pursuant to chapter 776; (b) The aggravated assault was not committed in the course of committing another criminal offense; (c) The defendant does not pose a threat to public safety; (d) The totality of the circumstances involved in the offense do not justify the imposition of such sentence.


Arrested for a firearms offense in St. Petersburg, Clearwater, or Tampa? Florida's 10-20-Life laws are severe. Early intervention by a qualified criminal defense attorney can have a significant impact on the outcome of your case. The Kilfin Law Firm, P.C. can help.


  • Florida statutes section 27.366 (Legislative intent and policy in cases meeting criteria of s. 775.087(2) and (3) provides as follows:
It is the intent of the Legislature that convicted criminal offenders who meet the criteria in s. 775.087(2) and (3) be sentenced to the minimum mandatory prison terms provided herein. It is the intent of the legislature to establish zero tolerance of criminals who use, threaten to use, or avail themselves of firearms in order to commit crimes and thereby demonstrate their lack of value for human life. It is also the intent of the Legislature that prosecutors should appropriately exercise their discretion in those cases in which the offender's possession of a firearm is incidental to the commission of a crime and not used in furtherance of the crime, used in order to commit the crime, or used in preparation to commit the crime. For every case in which the offender meets the criteria in this act and does not receive the mandatory minimum prison sentence, the state attorney must explain the sentencing deviation in writing and place such explanation in the case file maintained by the state attorney.
  • Resources

The following is a list of outside sources, prior blog posts, and other website sections on topics related to Florida's 10-20-Life provisions:

  • Links
  1. HG. Org: Florida Sentencing Enhancements Pt. 4: 10-20-Life
  2. HG. Org: St. Petersburg Arson Defense Attorney
  3. HG. Org: St. Petersburg Assault & Aggravated Assault Defense Attorney
  4. HG. Org: St. Petersburg Battery & Aggravated Battery Defense Attorney
  5. HG. Org: St. Petersburg Burglary Defense Attorney
  • Blog Posts
  1. The Aggravated Assault Exception to Florida's 10-20-Life Statute
  2. Inchoate (Incomplete) Crimes: Attempt, Solication, and Conspiracy
  3. The Aggravated Assault Exceptions to Florida's 10-20-Life Statute: 2016 Updates
  • Related Sections
  1. Arson
  2. Aggravated Assault
  3. Aggravated Battery
  4. Burglary
  5. Carjacking
  6. Drug Trafficking
  7. Homicide
  8. Kidnapping
  9. Robbery
  10. Sexual Offenses
  11. Weapons Offenses
  12. Justifiable Use of Force
  • The Bottom Line

10-20-Life is one of Florida's most draconian sentencing enhancements. Your prior record plays no role. It does not matter when, or even if you were released from prison at some point in the past. If you use a gun during the commission of a felony offense in this state, there is a good chance that you will be subject to the provisions of 10-20-Life. As with all criminal offenses, early intervention by an experienced criminal defense attorney is crucial. This is especially the case where one of Florida' sentencing enhancements may apply, based on the charge that is filed. If you have been arrested or charged for an offense with 10-20-Life implications, contact The Kilfin Law Firm, PC. to discuss your case and options.