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10-20-Life Florida Law is long gone

By Courtney Mitchell
On April 28, 2016

Florida residents can say goodbye to its 10-20-Life law. In January Governor Rick Scott signed Senate Bill 228, which introduces a new mandatory minimum sentences to criminal acts involving firearms.

SB 228 was initially filed Sept. 3 and introduced by Sen. Aaron Bean and Sen. Rob Bradley.

The new law that received a unanimous vote eliminates Florida's 10-20-Life law, which was the guideline for judge’s decisions when they had to sentence convicted criminals.

The 10-20-Life law (Florida Statute 775.087) states a mandatory minimum sentencing for the U.S. State of Florida. Individuals can face 10 years for pulling a gun, 20 years for firing a gun and 25 to life for shooting someone, according to myfloridalaw.com.

Local Tallahassee resident Trey Brown wished SB 228 was established in 2000.

“I feel that at the time that I was facing charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon back in the year 2000, it would have been much more needed. The 10-20-Life guidelines were appalling to me,” Brown said. “A man could face serious time off of a false conviction or bad incident. The changes were much needed. I was facing five years myself because of a family disagreement gone sour.”

A Tallahassee Police Officer, who wished to remain anonymous, said as  it is up to law enforcement to uphold the law.  

“According to the department’s supervisors, it is our job to enforce the laws and not provide our opinion if it’s a good law or not,” the officer said.

The new law gives judges across the state flexibility when sentencing people convicted of gun-involved crimes. There were no exceptions before but now there are.

Ross Vickers, attorney for Florida Department of Professional Regulation, supports the new law and believes in uniformity.

“I am a supporter of Senate Bill 228 because it restores judicial discretion in aggravated assault cases by removing it from the list of offenses to which the 10-20-Life statute applies. While I understand that the 10-20-Life statute is aimed (at) deterring gun violence by imposing harsh mandatory minimum sentences, I always favor laws that allow for judicial discretion over laws that provide bright-line rules which cannot be deviated from. This is because a one-size-fits-all approach often fails to ‘do justice,’” Vickers said.

By just a stroke of a pen, Scott changed Florida’s criminal justice system. The bill doesn’t affect those who are incarcerated, but will be in effect July 1, 2016.

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