A new state law allows judges to veer from the Florida's strict 10-20-Life laws if it can be proven that a person fired a warning shot because he or she was in fear of death or imminent great bodily harm. The change expands the state's Stand Your Ground law to allow people to show a gun and fire a warning shot if they feel threatened, just as a person can use deadly force in a similar situation, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Before the law change, someone who fired a warning shot could be charged with aggravated assault with a firearm and, because a gun was fired, faced a minimum mandatory sentence of 20 years in state prison.
A Jacksonville Gun Crimes Case was one of the reasons a South Florida lawmaker said he sponsored the bill, the newspaper reported. A Jacksonville woman was convicted of three counts of aggravated assault, and sentenced to 20 years in state prison, for firing what she says was a warning shot to scare off her estranged husband. Two of his children were present at the time, hence the two additional charges. Her conviction was overturned by an appellate court, so she is now awaiting a second trial in her Jacksonville Gun Crimes Case. Police and prosecutors contend that Jacksonville Gun Crimes Case wasn't a true warning shot, proof that you will still encounter similar disagreements in court on whether the law applies. Many in law enforcement have been generally supportive of the new bill because it helps clarify what is legal when it comes to self-defense, the newspaper reported, and because it protects people who are legally defending themselves.
From a sentencing and adjudication perspective, it essentially gets discretion back into the hands of judges, who are elected and appointed to make these decisions, which is a good thing. Anytime there's a hard and fast rule without room for interpretation, there's a risk of a sentencing not matching up with the actual crime, given the circumstances. Not all Jacksonville Gun Crimes Cases are exactly alike, and judges should be able to take all of the facts into consideration and make the best decision in terms of sentencing. Under Florida's 10-20-Life law, anyone who displays a gun during the commission of a felony can be sentenced to an automatic 10 years in state prison. If a gun is fired, a 20-year minimum mandatory sentence is applied. If someone is shot during the felony, the defendant would receive a mandatory life sentence if convicted. This new law does not prevent judges from imposing severe sentences in Jacksonville Gun Crimes Cases, it simply allows discretion in cases where it makes sense.
If you or a loved one needs a criminal defense attorney in Jacksonville or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm at (904) 365-5200 for a FREE CONSULTATION. Our Jacksonville Gun Crimes Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.