Violent Career Criminals
Experienced St. Petersburg Criminal Defense Attorney
Florida's violent career criminal statutes are a series of recidivist sentencing provisions targeting repeat violent felony offenders. To qualify as a VCC, the accused person must have been convicted, on at least three prior occasions, of a forcible felony, Aggravated stalking, Aggravated child abuse, aggravated abuse of an elderly person or disabled adult, certain sex crimes, certain firearms offenses, or Escape. The person must have served a prison sentence, in either a state or federal correctional facility, and the pending offense must be of the same category of offenses as the three priors. Also, the pending offense must have been committed while the defendant was either (1) serving a prison sentence for an enumerated felony; or (2) within 5 years after the conviction from the last prior enumerated felony, or release from sanction (i.e. prison sentence or supervision), whichever is later.
Unlike the PRR statute, the court has the discretion to not sentence the Violent Career criminal in accordance with the VCC statute if the court finds that such sentence is not necessary for the protection of the public. If the accused person qualifies for sentencing as a VCC, and the court sentences the person accordingly, the penalties are severe. For a life felony, or a felony of the first degree, the person must be sentenced to life in prison. For a second degree felony, the court may sentence the person to a term of imprisonment not to exceed 40 years, with a thirty year minimum mandatory. Ordinarily, a second degree felony is punishable by up to fifteen years in state prison. For the VCC who is charged with a second degree felony, the maximum penalty is almost three times that, and the minimum permissible sentence is twice that of the otherwise applicable statutory maximum. Ordinarily, a third degree felony is punishable by up to five years in prison. For the VCC who is charged with a third degree felony, the maximum penalty is three times greater, and once again, the minimum permissible sentence is twice that of the otherwise applicable statutory maximum.
Applicable Florida Statutes
The following is a list of Florida statutes related to Violent Career Criminals and Sentencing Implications:
- Florida Statutes § 775.084(1)(d) provides as follows:
"Violent career criminal" means a defendant for whom the court must impose imprisonment pursuant to paragraph (4)(d) if it finds that: 1. The defendant has previously been convicted as an adult three or more times for an offense in thus state or other qualified offense that is: a. Any forcible felony, as described in s. 776.08; b. Aggravated stalking, as described in s. 784.048(3) and (4); c. Aggravated child abuse, as described in s. 827.03(2)(a); d. Aggravated abuse of an elderly person or disabled adult, as described in s. 825.102(2); e. Lewd or lascivious battery, lewd or lascivious molestation, lewd or lascivious conduct, or lewd or lascivious exhibition, as described in s. 800.04 or s. 847.0135(5); f. Escape, as described in s. 944.40; or g. A felony violation of chapter 790 involving the use or possession of a firearm. 2. The defendant has been incarcerated in a state or federal prison. 3. The primary offense for which the defendant is to be sentenced is a felony enumerated in subparagraph 1. and was committed on or after October 1st, 1995, and: a. While the defendant was serving a prison sentence, or other court ordered or lawfully imposed supervision that is imposed as a result of a prior conviction for an enumerated felony; or b. Within 5 years after the conviction of the last prior enumerated felony, or within 5 years after the defendant's release from a prison sentence, probation, community control, control release, conditional release, parole, or court ordered or lawfully imposed supervision or other sentence that is imposed as a result of a prior conviction for an enumerated felony, whichever is later. 4. The defendant has not received a pardon for any felony or other qualified offense that is necessary for the operation of this paragraph. 5. A conviction of a felony or other qualified offense necessary to the operation of this paragraph has not been set aside in any post conviction proceeding.
- Florida statute § 775.084(3)(c) provides as follows:
In a separate proceeding, the court shall determine whether the defendant is a violent career criminal with respect to a primary offense committed on or after October 1st, 1995. The procedure shall be as follows: 1. Written notice shall be served on the defendant and the defendant's attorney a sufficient time prior to the entry of a plea or prior to the imposition of sentence in order to allow the preparation of a submission on behalf of the defendant. 2. All evidence presented shall be presented in open court with full rights of confrontation, cross-examination, and representation by counsel. 3. Each of the findings required as the basis for such sentence shall be found to exist by a preponderance of the evidence and shall be appealable only as provided in paragraph (d). 4. For the purpose of identification, the court shall fingerprint the defendant pursuant to s. 921.241. 5. For an offense committed on or after October 1st, 1995, if the state attorney pursues a violent career criminal sanction against the defendant and the court, in a separate proceeding pursuant to this paragraph, determines that the defendant meets the criteria under subsection (1) for imposing such sanction, the court must sentence the defendant as a violent career criminal, subject to imprisonment pursuant to this section unless the court finds that such sentence is not necessary for the protection of the public. If the court finds that it is not necessary for the protection of the public to sentence the defendant as a violent career criminal, the court shall provide written reasons; a written transcript of orally stated reasons is permissible, if filed by the court within 7 days after the date of sentencing. Each month the court shall submit to the Office of Economic and Demographic Research of the Legislature the written reasons or transcripts in each case in which the court determines not to sentence a defendant as a violent career criminal as provided in this subparagraph.
- Florida statutes § 775.084(3)(d) provides as follows:
1. A person sentenced under paragraph (4)(d) as a violent career criminal has the right of direct appeal, and either the state or the defendant may petition the trial court to vacate an illegal sentence at any time. However, the determination of the trial court to impose or not to impose a violent career criminal sentence is presumed appropriate and no petition or motion for collateral or other post conviction relief may be considered based on an allegation either by the state or the defendant that such sentence is inappropriate, inadequate, or excessive. 2. It is the intent of the Legislature that, with respect to both direct appeal and collateral review of violent career criminal sentences, all claims of illegality or error be raised at the first opportunity and that no claim should be filed more than 2 years after judgment and sentence became final, unless it is established that the basis for the claim could not have been ascertained at the time by the exercise of due diligence. Technical violations and mistakes at trials and sentencing proceedings involving violent career criminals that do not affect due process or fundamental fairness are not appealable by either the state or the defendant. 3. It is the intent of the legislature that no funds, resources, or employees of the state or its political subdivisions be used, directly or indirectly, in appellate or collateral proceedings based on violent career criminal sentencing, except when such use is constitutionally or statutorily mandated.
- Florida statute § 775.084(4)(d) provides as follows:
The court, in conformity with the procedure established in paragraph (3)(c), shall sentence the violent career criminal as follows: 1. In the case of a life felony or a felony of the first degree, for life. 2. In the case of a felony of the second degree, for a term of years not exceeding 40, with a mandatory minimum term of 30 years' imprisonment. 3. In the case of a felony of the third degree, for a term of years not exceeding 15, with a mandatory minimum of 10 years' imprisonment.
- Florida statute § 775.084(4)(h) provides as follows:
A sentence imposed under this section is not subject to 921.002.
- Florida statutes § 775.084(4)(k) provides as follows:
1. A defendant sentenced under this section as a habitual felony offender, a habitual violent felony offender, or a violent career criminal is eligible for gain time granted by the Department of Corrections as provided in s. 944.275(4)(b). 2. For an offense committed on or after October 1st, 1995, a defendant sentenced under this section as a violent career criminal is not eligible for any form of discretionary early release, other than pardon or executive clemency, or conditional medical release granted pursuant to s. 947.149.
Where an accused person qualifies as Violent Career Criminal, the court may sentence that person to a period of incarceration that is more than twice the otherwise applicable statutory maximum, with some extremely harsh minimum mandatories. If you have been designated a violent career criminal, or are subject to another sentencing enhancement, The Kilfin Law Firm, P.C. can help.
Contact our St. Petersburg office at (888) 258-8049 to schedule a consultation.
- Florida statute § 775.0841 (Legislative findings and intent) provides as follows:
The Legislature finds that a substantial and disproportionate number of serious crimes are committed in Florida by a relatively small number of repeat and violent felony offenders, commonly known as career criminals. The Legislature further finds that priority should be given to the investigation, apprehension, and prosecution of career criminals in the use of law enforcement resources and to the incarceration of career criminals in the use of available prison space. The Legislature intends to initiate and support increased efforts by state and local law enforcement agencies and state attorneys' offices to investigate, apprehend, and prosecute career criminals and to incarcerate them for extended terms; and, in the case of violent career criminals, such extended terms must include substantial mandatory minimum terms of imprisonment.
- Florida statute § 775.0842 (persons subject to career criminal prosecution efforts) provides as follows:
A person who is under arrest for the commission, attempted commission, or conspiracy to commit any felony in this state shall be the subject of career criminal prosecution efforts provided that such person qualifies as a habitual felony offender, a habitual violent felony offender, or a violent career criminal under s. 775.084.
- Florida statutes § 775.0843 (policies to be adapted for career criminal case) provides as follows:
(1) Criminal justice agencies shall employ enhanced law enforcement management efforts and resources for the investigation, apprehension, and prosecution of career criminals. Each state attorney, sheriff, and police chief of each municipality shall provide for and participate in a career criminal prosecution program to coordinate the efforts contemplated by this section and ss. 775.0841 and 775.0842. Enhanced law enforcement efforts and resources include, but are not limited to: (a) Assignment of highly qualified investigators and prosecutors to career criminal cases. (b) Significant reduction of caseloads for investigators and prosecutors assigned to career criminal cases. (c) Coordination with federal, state, and local criminal justice agencies to facilitate the collection and dissemination of criminal investigative and intelligence information relating to those persons meeting the criteria of a career criminal.
(2) Each state attorney's office shall establish a career criminal prosecution unit and adopt and implement policies based on the following guidelines: (a) All reasonable prosecutorial efforts shall be made to resist the pretrial release of a charged defendant meeting career criminal criteria. (b) A plea of guilty or a trial conviction shall be sought on each offense charged in the accusatory pleadings against an individual meeting career criminal criteria. (c) All reasonable prosecutorial efforts shall be made to reduce time between arrest and disposition of charges against an individual meeting career criminal criteria. (d) All reasonable prosecutorial efforts shall be made to persuade the court to impose the most severe sanction authorized upon a person convicted after prosecution as a career criminal.
(3) This section does not prohibit a plea agreement in the interest of justice where there are co-defendants and the prosecuting attorney determines that the information or testimony of the defendant making the agreement is necessary for the conviction of one more of the other co defendants. The court may condition its acceptance of such plea agreement on the provision of such information or testimony by such co defendant.
(4) Law enforcement agencies shall employ enhanced law enforcement management efforts and resources in the investigation, apprehension, and prosecution of career criminals. Enhanced law enforcement efforts and resources include, but are not limited to: (a) Crime analysis, consisting of the timely collection and study of local crime data to: 1. Identify evolving or existing crime patterns involving career criminals. 2. Provide investigative leads. 3. Isolate and identify geographical areas or population groups experiencing severe crime problems in order to improve crime prevention efforts. 4. Provide supporting data for improved allocation of overall law enforcement agency resources. (b) Improved management of investigative operations involving use of information resulting from crime analysis, which may include participation in multi jurisdictional investigative and multi-aid units and measures to increase continuity of investigative efforts from the initial response through the arrest and prosecution of the offender.
(5) Each career criminal apprehension program shall concentrate on the identification and arrest of career criminals and the support of subsequent prosecution. The determination of which suspected felony offenders shall be the subject of career criminal apprehension efforts shall be made in accordance with written target selection criteria selected by the individual law enforcement agency and state attorney consistent with the provisions of this section and s. 775.0842.
(6) Each career criminal apprehension program, as one of its functions, shall maintain coordination with the prosecutor assigned to each case resulting from its efforts. The coordination shall include, but is not limited to, case preparation, processing, and adjudication.
The following is a list of outside sources, prior blog posts, and other website sections on topics related to violent career criminals:
- Hg. Org: St. Petersburg Violent Career Criminal Defense Attorney.
- HG. Org: St. Petersburg Arson Defense Attorney
- HG. Org: St. Petersburg Assault & Aggravated Assault Defense Attorney
- HG. Org: St. Petersburg Battery & Aggravated Battery Defense Attorney
- HG. Org: St. Petersburg Burglary Defense Attorney
- Affecting the Filing Decision
- Aggravated Assault
- Aggravated Battery
- Sexual Battery
- Weapons Offenses
The Bottom Line
The violent career criminal provisions significantly increase the otherwise applicable maximum penalty, for the commission of certain types of offenses, and impose severe minimum mandatory sentences. Like many of Florida's recividivist sentencing statutes, the VCC provisions require that the pending offense be committed within a certain period of time, following the commission of a prior enumerated offense. To be sentenced as a VCC, the accused person must also have been sentenced to prison (in a state or federal institution). Unlike the prison releasee reoffender statute, however, the court has discretion to avoid sentencing the violent career criminal as such under certain circumstances.
As with all criminal cases, early intervention by an experienced criminal defense attorney can have a significant impact on the outcome of the case, but this is especially so where the accused person is facing on of Florida's draconian sentencing enhancements upon conviction. At The Kilfin Law Firm, P.C., we work tirelessly to attain the best possible result for our clients.
If you are facing a VCC enhancement, contact our St. Petersburg office to discuss your case. Evening and weekend appointments are always available.
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