10… 20… Life

Felony Firearm Sentencing Enhancement

The 10/20/Life law is a recent addition to the Florida Criminal Punishment Code, designed to “get tough” on crimes involving a firearm. Since July 1, 1999 courts are now required to hand down a 10-year prison sentence for any person who is in “actual” possession of a firearm and is convicted of committing (or attempting to commit) a serious felony. The new law specifically says that use of the firearm to commit the offense is unimportant so long as the weapon was actually in possession of the accused during the time that the crime was committed. The penalty for using or discharging a firearm during the commission of a serious felony (like murder, sexual battery, robbery, or burglary) is even more severe. Under the law, the court, upon conviction, must impose a minimum 20-year sentence of imprisonment. The ante is upped even further when the state alleges that the accused discharged a firearm during the attempt or commission of a serious felony and death or serious bodily injury to another resulted. Under that set of circumstances, the person on trial faces a minimum sentence of at least 25 years in state prison, and could be sent away for life.

It’s important to note that even though the 10/20/Life law mandates minimum penalties for serious felonies involving a firearm or “destructive device,” the statute still allows judges the discretion to impose a sentence above and beyond the minimum penalties. In other words, an offender facing a 10-year minimum sentence could receive a longer term of imprisonment than just 10 years. So long as the sentence is authorized by law, a judge can impose a term of incarceration in excess of the mandatory minimum. Additionally, the legislature made sure that offenders sentenced under the new law can’t escape sentencing by disallowing the judge from ordering a suspension of the sentence, a deferred sentence, or a withhold of adjudication. The legislature also foreclosed any possibility of discretionary early release, except for a pardon by the governor or conditional medical release. The bottom line: Once sentenced under the 10/20/Life law, you’re in for the duration of the minimum sentence.

The 10/20/Life law also makes a special provision for those who commit or attempt to commit a serious felony while in the possession of a high capacity semiautomatic weapon or a machine gun. Simply possessing a machine gun during the commission of a serious felony results in a minimum mandatory penalty of 15 years upon conviction. Discharging a machine gun or high capacity weapon during an attempt or commission of a serious felony triggers the 20-year minimum sentence, and if the discharge of such a weapon caused serious injury or death, the minimum mandatory penalty is not less then 25 years, all the way up to life in state prison. If you are facing a felony charge that is enhanced under the 10-20-Life statute, you need the advice and assistance of an experienced criminal defense attorney.  Call our office for a free consultation at (727) 578-0303

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1.)  Were you charged with a felony or attempted felony for one of the following:

Important notice:  Given frequent legislative changes in this area of the law and the unique nature of each case, readers are urged not to rely solely on graphs or charts. You are advised to review  Florida Statute Section 775.087 and to consult with an experienced attorney.  Retaining an attorney promptly after arrest can sometimes be beneficial with respect to 10-20-Life ramifications.  Your attorney may be able to persuade the prosecutor that the facts and circumstances of your case warrant special consideration.  This could result in a decision by the State not to file formal charges that would otherwise trigger the harsh mandatory sentencing called for under the 10-20-Life Statute.
  • Murder
  • Sexual battery
  • Robbery
  • Burglary
  • Arson
  • Aggravated assault
  • Aggravated battery
  • Kidnapping
  • Escape
  • Aircraft piracy
  • Aggravated child abuse
  • Aggravated abuse of an elderly person or disabled adult
  • Unlawful throw/place/discharge of destructive device or bomb
  • Carjacking
  • Home-invasion robbery
  • Aggravated stalking
  • Trafficking in controlled substance (see § 775.087(2) for exact language).
  • Possession of a firearm by a felon

2.) During the commission of the felony, did you actually possess a firearm or destructive device? 3.) During the commission of the felony, did you discharge a firearm or destructive device? 4.) During the commission of the felony, did you discharge a firearm or destructive device AND as a result of the discharge, was death or great bodily harm inflicted upon any person?


IF (1) & (2) are satisfied

THEN: Mandatory minimum term of imprisonment = 10 years

UNLESS Conviction is for:

  • Aggravated assault
  • Possession of a firearm by a felon
  • Burglary of a conveyance

THEN: Mandatory minimum term of imprisonment = 3 years *See (8) below

IF (1) & (3) are satisfied THEN: Mandatory minimum term of imprisonment = 20 years *See (8) below.

IF (1) & (4) are satisfied THEN: Mandatory minimum term of imprisonment = 25 years; Maximum term = Life*See (8) below

10-20-Life law does not preclude the judge from imposing a longer sentence of incarceration or from imposing death penalty if authorized by law.

The court may not impose a lesser sentence than otherwise required by law.

Adjudication of guilt and/or imposition of sentence may not be suspended, deferred, or withheld.

Defendant is not eligible for statutory gain-time or discretionary early release except for a pardon or conditional medical release prior to serving the minimum sentence.

If the minimum mandatory sentence exceeds the maximum sentence authorized by 775.082 or 775.084 the minimum mandatory sentence must be imposed.


1.)  Are you charged with a felony where use of a weapon or firearm is not an essential element of the crime?

2.) During the commission of the felony: did you carry,displayusethreaten to use, or attempt to use any weapon or firearm OR did you commit an aggravated battery during the commission of the felony?

3.) IF (1) & (2) are satisfied THEN the felony with which you are charged is reclassified as follows:

  • 1st Degree Felony enhanced to Life Felony
  • 2nd Degree Felony enhanced to 1st Degree Felony
  • 3rd Degree Felony enhanced to 2nd Degree Felony