The 10-20-Life law (Florida Statute 775.087) is a mandatory minimum sentencing law in the U.S. state of Florida. It primarily regards the use of a firearm during the commission of a forcible felony. The law's name comes from a set of three basic minimum sentences it provides for. An ongoing public service announcement campaign has accompanied the law since its passage under the slogan, "Use a gun, and you're done."
As of 1998, the year before the law went into effect, guns were used in 31,643 violent felonies in Florida. At that time, the mandatory sentence for using a gun in a violent felony was three years in prison. That same year, Jeb Bush, then a candidate for governor in the 1998 gubernatorial election, proposed the 10-20-Life law and advocated it as a core element of his campaign platform. Following his successful election and assumption of office in January 1999, the Florida Legislature passed the governor's proposal. The law went into effect on July 1, 1999, amending section 775.087 of the Florida Statutes. In 2000, the Legislature extended the mandatory sentences to cover 16- and 17-year-olds who fire a gun (during a violent crime), and those offenders with prior criminal records.
The law specifies exactly what categories of crimes fall under it, mandates that offenders be sentenced to the law's maximum allowable extent for the committed felony, and states that the mandatory sentences must be completed consecutively to any additional sentence an offender must serve.
The law's name comes from three main mandatory sentences: 1) producing a firearm during the commission of certain felonies mandates at least a 10-year prison sentence; 2) firing one mandates at least a 20-year prison sentence; and 3) shooting someone mandates a minimum sentence of 25 years to life regardless of whether a victim is killed or simply injured. The maximum penalty is a life sentence unless the defendant is charged with felony murder or first degree murder in which case the maximum is the death penalty.
In addition to the "10-20-Life" rule itself, the law also established or increased other mandatory minimum sentences:
It also created minimum sentences for convicted drug traffickers. Drug offenses that warrant a mandatory sentence begin at the level of a three-year prison term. Depending on the type of drug, the amount of it, and also whether the drug has resulted in anyone's death, the minimum penalties may increase to 7, 15 or 25 years, life or death.
^A If a defendant is convicted, the degree of the offense shall be raised as follows:Assault - from a misdemeanor of the second degree to a misdemeanor of the first degree. Battery - from a misdemeanor of the first degree to a felony of the third degree. Aggravated assault - from a felony of the third degree to a felony of the second degree. Aggravated battery - from a felony of the second degree to a felony of the first degree.
^B Under Florida law, a law enforcement officer classifies as follows:
Waiver of mandatory minimums
Under Florida law, the prosecutor in a case is the only person eligible to waive any mandatory minimum. The only way a judge can issue a waiver is if he or she were to sentence the defendant as a youthful offender, which would cap the maximum penalty at 6 years of any supervision whether it be prison or probation. One of the qualifications for a youthful offender sentence is that the defendant be no more than 20 years of age at the time of the sentence.
Acts designed for repeat offenders
Jeb Bush and Florida Legislature not only came up with the 10-20-Life system, they also came up with or modified several acts designed for repeat offenders. These acts include Violent Career Criminal, Habitual felony offender, Habitual violent felony offender, Three-time violent felony offender, Prison Releasee Reoffender, and Dangerous Sexual Felony Offender.
These acts, as designed, hand down mandatory minimum sentencing for offenders that fall under these acts. It is the prosecutor's decision whether or not to classify a defendant under any of these acts if the criteria presents itself. If the prosecutor does not classify the defendant under any of these acts even though they qualify, a reason must be written and filed into the court records.
Violent Career Criminal
A person may be classified as a violent career criminal if they have been convicted as an adult three or more times in this state for any of the following crimes:
The defendant also has to have been incarcerated in federal prison or state prison at one point. The new crime also has to have been committed within 5 years of the defendant's release from prison, probation, community control or any other state supervision.
If a person is classified as a violent career criminal, the court must sentence the defendant as follows:
Habitual felony offender
A person may be classified as a habitual felony offender if they have been convicted of two or more felonies in this state and the current felony was committed while the person was in prison, county jail or the offense was committed within 5 years of the last felony or release from prison, probation or community control. Drug felonies do not qualify under this act.
If a person is classified as a habitual felony offender, the court may sentence the defendant as follows:
Habitual violent felony offender
A person may be classified as a habitual violent felony offender if the person was previously convicted of one or more of any of the following offenses:
Much like the previous mentioned acts, the felony has to have been committed while in prison, within 5 years of release from prison, probation, community control or within five years from the last felony conviction committed under this list.
If a person is classified as a habitual violent felony offender, the court may sentence the defendant as follows:
Three-time violent felony offender
A person may be classified as a three-time violent felony offender if they have previously been convicted as an adult two or more times of a felony, or an attempt to commit a felony, and two or more convictions were for committing, or attempting to commit, any of the offenses listed under the habitual violent felony offender act; however, carjacking and home invasion robbery is added for this act.
The felony has to have either been committed while in prison, within 5 years of the last felony committed under this list or within 5 years of release from prison, probation or community control.
If a person is classified as a three time violent felony offender, the court must deviate from the sentencing guidelines and impose a mandatory minimum sentence.
Prison Releasee Reoffender
A person may be classified as a prison releasee reoffender (PRR) if they committed any crime listed below within three years from their release from a Florida state prison, a federal prison or a prison in another state. PRR also means any defendant who commits or attempts to commit any felony listed below while the defendant was serving a prison sentence, on escape status from a state prison operated by the Florida Department of Corrections or a private vendor or while the defendant was on escape status from a correctional institution of another state, or the Bureau of Prisons.
Crimes which fall under the PRR act:
If the state attorney classifies a defendant as a PRR, then the court must deviate from the sentencing guidelines and sentence the defendant as follows:
Dangerous Sexual Felony Offender
A person may be classified as a dangerous sexual felony offender if they committed any specific sex crime while over the 18 and in the course of the sex crime:
If a defendant is classified as a dangerous sexual felony offender then the court must sentence the defendant as follows
According to the Florida Parole Commission (FPC), in 2000, there was a 26.4% decrease in violent, gun-related crime compared to 1998. Florida's "Index Crime" rate for 2000, which is based on a variety of different crimes, had dropped 18% from the previous year, and had reached its lowest level in 28 years. According to the Florida Department of Corrections (FDC), by 2004, violent gun crime rates had fallen 30% since 1998, and the Index Crime rate had reached the lowest in 34 years, despite a 16.8% increase in population during that time period. The Florida Parole Commission and Department of Corrections both acknowledged that these results were influenced by a multitude of crime prevention programs in addition to the 10-20-Life law, such as the Three-Strike Violent Felony Offender Act, the Habitual Juvenile Offender Accountability Act and "Operation T.H.U.G.S." ("Taking Hoodlums Using Guns Seriously"), a program targeting felons with warrants for violent-crime and a violent history.
University of Florida criminologist Alex Piquero, who conducted a study on the legislation in 2006, noted the Florida Department of Law Enforcement's joint anti-crime programs with local law enforcement, such as Operation T.H.U.G.S., along with the “use a gun and you’re done” public service announcement campaign. He also noted that the overall crime rate had been declining before the law's passage. Contrary to the FDC and FPC, Piquero stated that the drop in state crime since the law's passage was more likely attributable to the national decline in crime over the same time period.