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Background and Methods

Mandatory Sentences Under the 10-20-Life Law

The legislation (Chapter 99-12) enacted to implement the Governor's proposal provided mandatory sentences for felons convicted of crimes in which they used a gun. The following provisions [Section 775.087 (2)-(4), Florida Statutes] became effective for crimes committed on or after July 1, 1999.

For pulling a gun during a crime, a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years is imposed. For certain felony crimes or attempted felonies, the 10 year mandatory sentence is authorized if the criminal possessed a gun (or destructive device). For firing the gun during a crime the mandatory minimum sentence is 20 years. For injuring or killing a victim by firing the gun during a crime, a mandatory minimum sentence from 25 years to life in prison is authorized.

For many years, it has been a felony crime in Florida for felons to possess guns. Recognizing that felons who possess guns, despite this violation of law, may intend to commit other serious crimes using guns, the 10-20-Life legislation provided for a mandatory minimum prison sentence of 3 years for such known felons who possess a gun. This provision alone has affected many felons sentenced to prison in Florida.

The legislation also increased to 15 years the minimum prison term when the offender possesses a semiautomatic firearm and its high-capacity detachable box magazine or a machine gun. However, so few of these convictions and sentences have occurred that this report does not examine them separately.

Felon possessing a gun 3 Years
Pulling a gun to commit a crime 10 Years
Pulling the trigger during a crime 20 Years
Injuring or killing a victim by firing a gun during a crime. 25 Years to Life

Identifying Felons Sentenced Under the Law

Felons sentenced under these provisions are selected from the Department of Corrections Offender-Based Information System database for this report. All convictions with offense dates on or after July 1, 1999 and where the inmate was in our custody as of June 30, 2006 with at least one crime that meets either of the qualifying criteria below is detailed in this report. Except for the Admission Tables, only inmates currently in our custody are included in this study. For example, inmates temporarily out to court at the time of this report are not included in the non-admission data.

Two criteria are used to identify crimes that qualify as affected by the 10-20-Life legislation for this report. First, the crime of felon possessing a gun is captured using three indicators simultaneously: 1) a Department of Corrections offense code (8771) that refers only to this offense, 2) a special provision code (FA) indicating a firearm mandatory sentence, and 3) a mandatory sentence of 3 years. Second, other offenses must have two indicators to qualify: 1) the special provision code (FA), and 2) a mandatory sentence of 10 or more years.

Reporting Requirements

There are no statutory requirements the Department of Corrections must meet in reporting information about 10-20-Life legislation effects. This report is designed by the Department simply to describe those felons for whom and the crimes for which the law has had sentencing consequences. In an attempt to present this information to the general public in the clearest way, the report focuses on criminals rather than their offenses. One felon may have been sentenced for multiple crimes affected by the law.

This report identifies the offense for which the longest mandatory sentence provided by the 10-20-Life law was imposed. Breaking down the data by the longest mandatory term an inmate received shows information in terms of the gun-related nature of the crime committed whether the gun was fired or a victim was injured. The report combines into one category those whose longest mandatory minimum sentence is 25 years or more (excluding life) because the law provides for a range of sentences from 25 years to life for those who fire a gun resulting in injury or death. A separate category for life is provided.

The Department of Corrections has not compared data reported here with information reported by each State Attorney. Nevertheless, the Department believes the data reported here, reflecting information transmitted to us by the Florida courts on sentence and judgment forms, provides a fair and accurate description of the sentencing effects of the 10-20-Life law.

The report is not intended to formally evaluate the initiative, but simply to advise Floridians about the serious justice consequences of using guns to commit crimes.

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