Court Explains Legality of Consecutive Sentences in Florida

Criminal defendants will often want to mount a vigorous defense against the charges they face. In some instances, though, they will find it beneficial to enter into a plea agreement. Sentences issued pursuant to such agreements must abide by the sentencing laws and guidelines; otherwise, they may be overturned. This was demonstrated in a recent Florida weapons crime case in which the defendant argued that his consecutive sentences were illegal and ultimately prevailed. If you are accused of a gun crime, it is in your best interest to meet with a Tampa gun crime defense lawyer to determine your options for seeking a favorable outcome.

History of the Case

It is reported that pursuant to a plea agreement, the defendant was serving a twenty-year mandatory minimum prison sentence for aggravated assault with a firearm and discharge, as well as a consecutive five-year prison sentence, with a three-year mandatory minimum provision, for possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. The trial court imposed the sentences under section 775.087(2) of the Florida Statutes.

Allegedly, the defendant moved to correct his sentence, arguing that the consecutive sentencing structure was illegal because the crimes were committed during a single criminal episode with one victim and a single shot discharged that did not strike the victim. The trial court denied his motion, and he appealed.

Legality of Consecutive Sentences

On appeal, the court ultimately adopted the defendant’s first argument. As such, the court reversed the defendant’s sentences, in part. In doing so, the court examined relevant precedent, which established that consecutive mandatory minimum sentences under section 775.087(2) were improper if the offenses occurred during a single criminal episode unless the defendant caused multiple injuries to one victim or discharged the firearm and injured multiple victims.

The court further emphasized that consecutive mandatory minimum sentences were illegal where there was only a single discharge of a firearm and only one person was shot during the episode. Given the consistency of these precedents and their approval by the Florida Supreme Court the court reversed the denial of the defendant’s motion on the first ground.

As the defendant’s consecutive mandatory minimum prison sentences were imposed under a plea agreement, the State was given the option to either agree to a legal sentence or to withdraw from the plea agreement and proceed to trial on the original charges. In sum, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded the case for further proceedings consistent with its opinion.

Meet with a Trusted Tampa Criminal Defense Attorney

While people can be charged and sentenced for multiple gun offenses, any sentences issued must be lawful, otherwise they can be appealed. If you are accused of a weapons crime, you should meet with an attorney at your earliest convenience to discuss your rights. The trusted Tampa gun crime defense lawyers of Hanlon Law have ample experience helping people protect their rights in criminal matters, and if you hire us, we will fight tirelessly on your behalf. You can reach Hanlon Law by using the form online or by calling us at 813-228-7095 to schedule a conference.

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