The United States has one of the highest incarceration rates in the world, and Florida maintains one of the highest rates of incarceration in the United States. One in every seven people behind bars in Florida is serving a life sentence, and mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses have resulted in large numbers of non-violent drug offenders receiving longer prison sentences. Florida’s mandatory minimum sentencing laws remove judicial discretion, requiring judges to impose predetermined minimum sentences for certain crimes
Understanding Mandatory Minimum Sentencing in Florida
Mandatory minimum sentencing refers to fixed penalties established by Florida law for specific crimes. These sentences represent the minimum punishment an individual will face if convicted of the designated offense. Judges have no discretion to deviate from these prescribed sentences, regardless of mitigating circumstances or the defendant’s individual circumstances. This lack of judicial flexibility has raised concerns about fairness and proportionality in sentencing.
Crimes Subject to Mandatory Minimum Sentencing in Florida
Florida’s mandatory minimum sentencing laws apply to various categories of offenses, including drug crimes, sex crimes, and gun crimes. Let’s examine each category in detail:
Florida takes a tough stance on drug crimes, particularly drug trafficking offenses. Drug trafficking involves the sale, purchase, manufacturing, delivery, or possession of narcotics. Mandatory minimum sentences for drug trafficking vary based on the type and quantity of the controlled substance involved. Possessing even relatively small amounts of illegal drugs can trigger mandatory minimum sentences, imposing severe penalties on individuals involved in drug-related activities.
Sex crimes, especially those involving minors, also carry mandatory minimum sentences in Florida. Offenses such as lewd or lascivious molestation of a child under the age of 12 can result in life imprisonment and mandatory minimum sentences of 25 years, followed by sex offender probation or community control for life.
Certain gun-related offenses in Florida also trigger mandatory minimum sentences. Possessing a firearm during the commission of specific felonies, such as robbery or aggravated assault, can lead to mandatory minimum sentences. Additionally, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon carries mandatory minimum sentences. These laws aim to deter individuals from using firearms to commit or facilitate crimes, ensuring public safety.
Potential Defenses Against Florida Mandatory Minimum Sentences
When facing charges that carry mandatory minimum sentences, it is crucial to explore all available defenses to protect your rights and potentially mitigate the consequences. While each case is unique, the following defenses may be applicable:
Challenging the Evidence
One defense strategy involves filing a motion to suppress evidence obtained through an illegal search or seizure, arguing that the evidence was unlawfully obtained and should be excluded from the case. Successfully suppressing critical evidence can weaken the prosecution’s case and potentially lead to reduced charges or case dismissal.
Negotiation and Plea Bargaining
In some cases, negotiating with the prosecution may lead to a plea agreement that avoids mandatory minimum sentences. An experienced criminal defense attorney can leverage their knowledge of the legal system, case facts, and potential weaknesses in the prosecution’s case to negotiate a favorable plea deal. This may involve reducing charges, recommending alternative sentencing options, or pursuing diversion programs aimed at rehabilitation instead of incarceration.
Aggressive and Experienced Criminal Defense Attorneys in Orlando
If you are facing charges that carry mandatory minimum sentences in Florida, the Rivas Law Firm is here to help. With over 120 years of combined experience, our attorneys have successfully defended clients against a wide range of criminal charges. We will fight vigorously to protect your rights and achieve the best possible outcome for you. Call us today at 407-644-2466 for a free consultation.