Florida Court Holds Actual Possession of a Gun is Not Needed to Impose a Firearm Sentence Enhancement

If you are a minor charged with a crime, it is essential to understand what sentence you might face prior to deciding to enter into a plea agreement. While certain crimes have mandatory sentences, in some cases it may not be clear what penalty applies to an offense under the terms of the statute.

For example, a Florida Court of appeals recently ruled that actual possession of a gun is not required for a court to impose a mandatory firearm enhancement sentence on a minor defendant who entered a plea for an armed burglary charge.  If you are a minor resident of Tampa facing criminal charges, you should consult with a Tampa criminal defense attorney to discuss whether entering a plea agreement may be appropriate in your case.

Factual Background

Reportedly, a witness saw four males trying to open a car in a parking lot. She contacted the police, who responded and ultimately detained the defendant. The officers became aware that a gun had been taken from a car burglarized by one of the four males. The minor defendant advised the officer that he knew where the gun was, and proceeded to lead the officers to the gun. A second male who was detained told the officers that a third male handed him the gun and he did it in a bush. None of the men indicated who removed the gun from the car.

The minor defendant was charged with armed burglary of a conveyance, grand theft of a firearm, burglary of a conveyance and resisting without violence. The minor defendant entered a plea on all of his charges. At the hearing, the state advised a mandatory 15-day detention was required pursuant to section 790.22(9)(a), since it was a firearm case. The minor defendant’s attorney argued that the 15-day enhancement should not be imposed since the minor defendant never had possession of the gun. The court ultimately agreed that the minor defendant should not face the enhancement and declined to impose the 15-day detention. The state appealed.

Mandatory Detention in Firearm Cases

The issue on appeal was whether the minor defendant actually had to possess the firearm for the enhancement to be imposed. The court noted that section 790.22(9)(a) requires a mandatory sentence of 15 days in a detention center for any minor found to have committed an offense involving a firearm. The court found that the language of the statute was clear and unambiguous, and did not require the actual use or possession of a firearm. Rather, the court held that the statute only required a defendant to commit a crime that involved the use or possession of a firearm. In other words, the focus was not on a defendant’s specific actions but on the category of the crime. Here, the minor defendant was charged with armed burglary which by definition requires the offender to arm himself with a dangerous weapon. Therefore, the court found that the trial court erred in failing to impose the 15-day sentence required by section 790.22(9)(a). As such, they reversed the sentence and remanded with instructions.

Consult a Seasoned Tampa Criminal Defense Attorney

If you are a juvenile Tampa resident who is charged with a crime, it is in your best interest to consult a seasoned criminal defense attorney to analyze the facts of your case and determine the potential sentences for the charges you face. William Hanlon of Hanlon Law is a proficient Tampa criminal defense attorney who can help you develop an appropriate defense. Contact our offices at 813-228-7095 or via the online form to set up a consultation.

More Blog Posts:

Florida Court of Appeals Overturns Conviction After Defendant’s Attorney Does Not Comply with the Defendant’s Wishes to Withdraw his Plea December 12, 2018, Tampa Criminal Lawyer Blog

Florida Court of Appeals Reverses Conviction for Resisting an Officer Without Violence  November 27, 2018, Tampa Criminal Lawyer Blog

Appeals Court Upholds Reduction of Sentence for Florida Defendant October 15, 2017, Tampa Criminal Lawyer Blog