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Clearwater Criminal Defense Attorney Discusses Florida’s 10-20-Life Law and Criminal Charges Involving the use of Firearms

As a Clearwater Criminal Defense Attorney, I am aware that the term “10-20-Life” has received substantial attention as a result of billboards along with signs that was once posted around the gas pumps at some local service stations. However it appears that criminal defendants, their family and friends, and the general public don’t really understand the law, or how and when it applies.

The Florida Legislature, the branch responsible for writing the laws of our state, decided that if a defendant uses a firearm during the commission of a felony, specific enhanced penalties must be imposed. The legislature has also written a law that reclassifies felonies if a weapon or firearm is used.


  • If during the commission of a felony, a Florida criminal defendant carries, displays, uses, threatens to use, or attempts to use any weapon or firearm, or during the commission of the felony the defendant commits an aggravated battery, the charged felony will be reclassified:
    • 3rd Degree Felony=  will become a 2nd Degree Felony
    • 2nd Degree Felony= will become a 1st Degree Felony
    • 1st Degree Felony= will become a Life Felony, punishable up to life in prison
  • Additionally, a felony that is reclassified as stated above, will be ranked one level higher on the Criminal Punishment Code Scoresheet (commonly known as a “score sheet” or “point sheet”). This means the points assessed for that felony on these guidelines will increase to the next highest number of points
  • These reclassifications do not apply if the use of weapon or firearm is an essential element of the felony charged. For example- the charge of “Carrying a Concealed Firearm” would not be reclassified (and 10-20-Life would not apply) because the person must be carrying a firearm to commit the offense in the first place. If no firearm was possessed, there would be no criminal act in accordance with Florida law


  • If a defendant is convicted of specific listed felonies, whether or not the use of a weapon or firearm is an element of the crime, minimum mandatory sentences must be imposed by the court
  • The felony charges are listed in FloridaStatute 775.087(2)(a)1. Some examples of the included offenses are:
    • Murder; Sexual Battery; Robbery; Burglary; Aggravated Child Abuse
  • If a defendant actually possessed a firearm (or destructive device) while they were committing the crime, the defendant must be sentenced to a minimum of 10 years imprisonment
    • Exception- if a person is convicted of aggravated assault, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, or burglary of a conveyance (not residence) the person must be sentenced to 3 years imprisonment if the person possessed a firearm during the offense
  • If a defendant is convicted of one of the listed felonies, or an attempt, and the person discharges the firearm during the commission of the crime, that person must be sentenced to a minimum of 20 years imprisonment
  • If a defendant discharges a firearm during the commission of one of the listed felonies, and the discharge results in death or great bodily harm to another person, the defendant must be sentenced to a minimum of 25 years imprisonment, with the maximum penalty being life in prison
  • The Criminal Punishment Code Scoresheet does not apply in these mandatory minimum cases- meaning if a defendant’s points score out to less time than the mandatory sentence, the mandatory must be imposed. Additionally, if a defendant’s points score out to more than the mandatory, the mandatory must be imposed as part of the sentence
  • A defendant sentenced under this law is not eligible for statutory gain-time and cannot be released prior to serving the minimum sentence

Florida has enacted very strict gun laws and it is important for citizens to know their rights, responsibilities and the consequences of possessing a firearm. The Florida criminal defense attorneys at Powers Sellers & Finkelstein have extensive experience representing clients charged with gun related offenses and we can advise you in our fee consultation and caseevaluation. Please contact our firm for legal advice concerning Florida’s gun laws or for a free consultation regarding your criminal charges.

Powers Sellers & Finkelstein, PLC. is a full-service Clearwater criminal defense firm. Conveniently located in Largo, our office is only minutes away for residents of Clearwater and St. Petersburg. Our attorneys regularly handle criminal defense for residents of Largo, Pinellas Park, Seminole, Madeira Beach, Indian Rocks, Kenneth City, St. Petersburg, St. Petersburg Beach, Treasure Island, Clearwater, Clearwater Beach, Safety Harbor, Dunedin, Palm Harbor and Tarpon Springs.

If you are in the need of assistance or for more information, please contact Powers Sellers & Finkelstein, PLC. at 1-855-PSF-FIRM or (727) 531-2926 for a free consultation and case evaluation.