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Prior Felony Convictions Can Lead to Enhanced or Mandatory Minimum Sentences

November 18, 2021
By The Wiseman Law Firm

In Florida, people with prior felony convictions can face enhanced or even mandatory minimum terms of imprisonment upon a conviction for a subsequent offense. The number of years that can be tacked on to their sentence or the amount of time they are required to serve depends on how many felonies they were convicted of in the past and the nature of those crimes.

These factors also determine whether a person is designated a:

  • Habitual felony offender,
  • Habitual violent felony offender,
  • Three-time violent felony offender, or
  • Violent career criminal.

We’ll discuss each of the designations in more detail later. For now, though, let’s explore the circumstances in which these terms are applied.

Generally, for a person to receive one of the designations, they must have:

  • Committed a subsequent felony while imprisoned or under court-ordered supervision,
  • Within 5 years of their previous conviction or of completing their sentence for a prior offense,
  • Not have been pardoned for a qualifying offense, and
  • Not have had a previous conviction set aside.

What Is a Habitual Felony Offender?

A habitual felony offender is someone who has been previously convicted of two or more felonies. Additionally, neither the crime they are currently being sentenced for nor those they were convicted of in the past can be an offense involving purchasing or possessing a controlled substance.

If a person is designated a habitual felony offender, the court may impose the following sentences for the current offense:

  • If the crime was a life or first-degree felony
    • Life
  • If the crime was a second-degree felony
    • Not more than 30 years
  • If the crime was a third-degree felony
    • Not more than 10 years

The habitual felony offender designation essentially doubles the prison term, except in the case of life and first-degree felonies, which are typically penalized by life or up to 30 years in prison, respectively. Without the designation, a person convicted of a second-degree felony faces up to 15 years of imprisonment. For a third-degree felony, they face up to 5 years of imprisonment.

Note that the court is not required to impose the enhanced sentences listed above. Florida Statutes § 775.084(1)(a) states that the court “may impose an extended term of imprisonment” (emphasis added).

What Is a Habitual Violent Felony Offender?

As the name implies, a person may be designated a habitual violent felony offender if they have previously been convicted of a specified violent crime.

Under Florida Statutes § 775.084(1)(b), those offenses include:

  • Arson
  • Sexual battery
  • Robbery
  • Kidnapping
  • Aggravated child abuse
  • Aggravated abuse of an elderly person or disabled adult
  • Aggravated assault with a deadly weapon
  • Murder
  • Manslaughter
  • Aggravated manslaughter of an elderly person or disabled adult
  • Aggravated manslaughter of a child
  • Unlawful throwing, placing, or discharging of a destructive device or bomb
  • Armed burglary
  • Aggravated battery
  • Aggravated stalking

As with the habitual felony offender designation, the court may impose more severe sentences upon a conviction for a subsequent felony.

The enhancements for a habitual violent felony offender include the following:

  • Life or first-degree felony
    • Life, and
    • Not eligible for release until 15 years have passed
  • Second-degree felony
    • Not more than 30 years, and
    • Not eligible for release until 10 years have passed
  • Third-degree felony
    • Not more than 10 years, and
    • Not eligible for release until 5 years have passed

What Is a Three-Time Violent Felony Offender?

In Florida, a person is considered a three-time violent felony offender if convicted two or more times of a specified felony. The qualifying felonies for this designation are the same as those for the habitual violent felony offender, with the addition of home invasion/robbery and carjacking.

For three-time violent felony offenders, the court is required to impose more severe sentences.

Below are the mandatory minimum terms of imprisonment the court must impose:

  • Life felony
    • Life
  • First-degree felony
    • 30 years
  • Second-degree felony
    • 15 years
  • Third-degree felony
    • 5 years

What Is a Violent Career Criminal?

A violent career criminal is someone with three or more convictions in their past.

The convictions must have been for any of the following crimes:

  • Any forcible felony
  • Aggravated stalking
  • Aggravated child abuse
  • Aggravated abuse of an elderly person or disabled adult
  • Lewd or lascivious battery, lewd or lascivious molestation, lewd or lascivious conduct, lewd or lascivious exhibition
  • Escape
  • A weapons and firearms offense involving the use or possession of a firearm

The court may impose an enhanced sentence and a mandatory minimum.

The enhancements are as follows:

  • Life or first-degree felony
    • Life
  • Second-degree felony
    • Up to 40 years, and
    • Mandatory minimum of 30 years
  • Third-degree felony
    • Up to 15 years, and
    • Mandatory minimum of 10 years

What Are the Career Criminal Registration Requirements in Florida?

Note that the enhanced sentences are not the only consequences of receiving one of the offender designations. The individual will also be required to register as a career criminal (Florida Statutes § 775.261). This requirement applies only to habitual violent felony offenders, violent career criminals, and three-time felony offenders.

Within two days of release or establishing temporary or permanent residence in a Florida county, the individual must report to their local sheriff’s office.

They must provide law enforcement officials with various pieces of personal information, including:

  • Name
  • Age
  • Race
  • Gender
  • Date of birth
  • Hair color
  • Address
  • Fingerprints

The information gets stored on a database that is publicly accessible. The law enforcement agency may also disseminate the person’s data to members of the public, informing them that a career offender is living in the community.

Failing to register is a third-degree felony, penalized by up to 5 years in prison and/or up to $5,000 in fines.

The career offender registration is a lifetime requirement. However, if the person has not been arrested for any other misdemeanor or felony for 20 years after their last conviction, they could petition the court for relief.

Contact an Attorney Today

If you have been charged with a felony in Orlando, speak with a criminal defense lawyer about your case as soon as possible. Although you have been accused of a crime, you may be able to fight the allegations and seek a favorable outcome, such as dropped charges or lesser penalties.

At The Wiseman Law Firm, we are ready to stand up for you and defend you against serious charges. Schedule a free consultation by calling 407-420-4647 or submitting an online contact form today.

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