Sentencing Enhancements

Clearwater Criminal Defense Attorneys Representing the Accused

The criminal justice system in the state of Florida can sometimes appear to be a revolving door. For those who find themselves trapped in that door, it can be a daunting task to escape the cycle and get their lives back on track. While politicians today push for criminal justice and prison reform, he “tough on crime” policies of the past still haunt our system and trap people in the vicious cycle of the criminal justice system. If you feel taken advantage of by the current criminal justice system, the best thing you can do is call a zealous Clearwater criminal defense attorney to have your back.

One of the policies that has been put in place to keep those with criminal convictions from easily reentering society is the repeat offender sentencing enhancement. Essentially, sentencing enhancement laws were put in place to seemingly punish the worst of the worst in our society. In reality, the sentencing laws target and effect a wide range of defendants, often harming nonviolent offenders and drug offenders who require help and diversion instead of lengthy prison sentences.

Types of Sentencing Enhancements Habitual Felony Offender Statute

One of the more common enhancements is the Habitual Felony Offender (“HFO”) statute. If you are designated a Habitual Felony Offender and are found guilty of a new felony offense, the maximum penalties double. For example, a person facing a third degree felony would be facing ten years instead of the normal five, for a second degree felony, thirty years instead of fifteen.

A defendant can be designated a Habitual Felony Offender if they have two or more felony convictions and, within five years of the offense date of their current offense, they finished a sentence for one of those felony convictions. The problem with the HFO statute is that any felony offense applies. Anyone who has ever been around the criminal justice system knows that there are thousands of felony offenses ranging from nonviolent financial crimes all the way up to murder. Many actions that people would not even think constitutes a crime might be interpreted as a felony offense. Even minor drug possession can serve as a qualifying prior offense.

Habitual Violent Felony Offender

The Habitual Violent Felony Offender (“HFVO”) statute is similar to the HFO designation but introduces extremely harsh sentences. A defendant can be designated HFVO if they have previously been convicted of a “violent offense” defined by the government and they commit a new offense within five years of the end of their sentence for that crime. The problem with this statute is that crimes like Aggravated Assault with a Deadly Weapon are included in the list of qualifying offenses. Prosecutors have charged people with Aggravated Assault with a Deadly Weapon where the “weapon” was a bicycle or a rock.

Those found guilty of a qualifying offense under the HFVO statute will find that their maximum sentence doubles AND a minimum mandatory sentence is imposed. Because of the harsh sentences facing reoffenders and the complicated qualification, it is crucial that you retain a qualified Clearwater Criminal defense lawyer to protect your rights in this situation.

Prison Releasee Reofender

The Prison Releasee Reoffender Statute (“PRR”) is among the most draconian and harsh of the sentencing enhancement statutes. A prison releasee reoffender is anyone who has been sentenced to prison for a qualifying violent offense. If that person commits a new crime within three years of their release from prison, they can be designated PRR. If a defendant is designated PRR and is convicted of another qualifying offense, the maximum penalty for their crime automatically becomes the minimum penalty. A punishable-by-life offense like burglary with a battery becomes a case where a conviction will result in a minimum sentence of life in prison.

Hire a Dedicated Clearwater Defense Lawyer Today

These sentencing statutes give prosecutors immense power and leverage over qualifying offenders. They also cause people to get stuck in an ever-worsening criminal justice system. If you are facing sentencing under one of these draconian statutes, you need an experienced Clearwater criminal defense attorney to have your back. Call the attorneys at Hanlon Law today at (727) 897-5413.