10-20-Life. Named after the three minimum sentences it sets out, this law is designed to elicit fear in anyone considering committing a felony with the use of a firearm. And while this law has certainly curbed crime in the past, there will always be situations that don’t call for minimum sentencing. One such offense is an aggravated assault.
Below, we discuss the penalties for aggravated assault and whether or not it carries a mandatory prison sentence. If you’ve been accused of aggravated assault and are conducting research to better your understanding of these laws, we commend you. However, it is in your best interest to contact an aggravated assault attorney in St. Petersburg who can review the specifics of your case and develop an effective defense.
Florida’s notorious 10-20-Life law applies to a number of felonies, including murder, sexual battery, and kidnapping. In such extreme cases, it makes sense that the State of Florida would want to enact stricter punishments, especially when you consider that there were 135,925 violent crimes in Florida in 1998, the year before 10-20-Life went into effect. However, what judges, prosecutors, and defense attorneys came to find was that minor offenses would require a mandatory prison sentence, regardless of extenuating circumstances, as was the case with a number of aggravated assault cases.
One such case involved Erik Weyant. Leaving a Lakeland bar, Weyant fired several warning shots into the air in an attempt to frighten a group of men who followed and blocked him from leaving in his truck. Weyant was subsequently charged with aggravated assault and sentenced to 20 years in prison despite the fact that no one was hurt. At the time of the sentencing, Judge Neil Roddenberry said, “…the only sentence I can impose in this matter is a 20-year prison sentence. It does not matter whether I agree with that … I don’t find that I have any room to deviate from what the Legislature has said that sentence has to be.” Fortunately, a recent bill will ensure that what happened to Erik Weyant won’t happen again.
In 2016, Senate Bill 228 was passed, removing the mandatory 20-year prison sentence for aggravated assault cases involving a firearm, and allowing judges to impose sentences that they deem fair and just. Although 10-20-Life no longer applies to aggravated assault, those accused must still defend against a third-degree felony charge punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. Even without a mandatory minimum sentence, you can still spend years behind bars if convicted. Don’t leave your freedom to chance, consult Anthony Rickman, the best aggravated assault attorney in St. Petersburg.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.