Florida’s 10 Year Rule, coined as the 10-20-Life Law, is a 1999 law that provides ten-year, twenty-year, and minimum life sentences for select groups of crimes. This law allows all crimes of a specific nature to be penalized in the same way with a more standardized punishment, as sentence minimums. It requires the discipline of certain crimes to be above a certain degree. This law’s truth or fiction aspect is less rumor and more about validity. The law’s enforcement and its amendments have led to much confusion.

Is it a 10-20-Life Law?

The “10-20-Life Law” title can be misleading, as there are sentence minimums outside of these three options for other crimes. For example, one such minimum is a 15-year sentence. The 10-20-Life Law aims to ensure that severe crimes receive a minimum punishment and do not receive inappropriately lenient sentences.

Florida “10-20-Life” Law – Section 775.087

Section 775.087 of the Florida legislature outlines that certain crimes must receive a minimum ten-year sentence. More extreme crimes have a minimum twenty-year sentence, and the most severe crimes carry a minimum life sentence. Additionally, Section 775.087 amends the designated severity levels of certain crimes to one level above their previous designation. For example, this law enacts the redesignation of felonies with the following modifications:

  • First-degree felonies are now life felonies
  • Second-degree felonies have become a first-degree felony
  • Third-degree felonies are now a second-degree felony
  • (Essentially, the classifications have been re-defined through amendment.)

Under Section 775.087, the following crimes are subject to penalty change:

  • Murder
  • Sexual battery
  • Robbery
  • Burglary
  • Aggravated burglary
  • Arson
  • Kidnapping
  • Escape
  • Aircraft piracy
  • Aggravated child abuse
  • Aggravated abuse of an older person or disabled adult
  • Unlawful throwing, placing or discharging of a destructive device or bomb
  • Carjacking
  • Robbery committed through a home invasion
  • Aggravated stalking
  • Possession of a firearm
  • Trafficking the following substances:
    • Cannabis
    • flunitrazepam
    • gamma-hydroxybutyric acid (GHB)
    • 1,4-Butanediol
    • Phenethylamines
  • Trafficking or capital importation of the following substances:
    • Phencyclidine
    • Methaqualone
    • Amphetamine
  • Any other violation of Section 893.135(1)

The Impact of Firearms on Minimum Sentencing

Section 775.087 provides different minimum sentencing for the same offenses listed above, but the level of involvement of firearms or destructive devices while committing the crime grants them separate minimum sentences. Possession, discharge, and effects of a firearm or destructive device will significantly impact the minimum punishment for the crimes above.

Each level of involvement of firearms or destructive devices has a different potential for death or severe injury. Florida legislation designed the law to issue a lower minimum sentence to suit instances where injury or death was a minor threat . The law then prescribes higher minimum penalties for more significant threats of injury or death. The following is a list of firearms or destructive devices that Section 775.087 references when outlining minimum sentencing for the above crimes:

Destructive Devices – Section 790.001(4)

  • Devices one designs or manufactures to contain a poisonous, expanding, explosive, or incendiary gas within a fragile container meant to explode and cause serious bodily harm, property damage, or death
  • Any device from which one can readily create a destructive device
  • Devices using an explosive material to expel a projectile
  • Examples:
    • Bombs
    • Grenades
    • Mines
    • Rockets
    • Missiles
    • Pipe bombs
    • Short-barreled shotgun
Destructive devices do not include:
    • Any device that is which one has not designed or has altered to not be usable as a weapon
    • Other shotguns
    • Any other nonautomatic rifle used for hunting big game
    • Explosives without the accompaniment of a device to expel or project it
    • Specific fireworks (Section 791.01)
    • Smokeless propellant powder or small arms ammunition primers (Section 552.241)
    • Black powders below specific quantities (Chapter 552)

Firearms

  • Any device designed to expel a projectile with the use of an explosive substance
  • Any frame or receiver for the above definition of a firearm
  • Firearm mufflers
  • Firearm silencers
  • Destructive devices
  • Machine guns
  • Antique firearms involved in a crime

The following subsections further define the changes to the penalties for the above crimes made by the 10-20-Life Law, Section 775.087:

10 Year Minimum Sentences

Under the 10-20-Life Law, the above crimes committed with the possession of a firearm or destructive device result in a ten-year minimum sentence. However, there are some exceptions to this rule. If one is found in possession of a firearm or destructive device while being transported or in a motor vehicle or ship belonging to the convicted individual, their minimum sentence is three years rather than ten. However, the ten-year sentence minimum remains if the individual found transporting a firearm or destructive weapon has previously committed any of the following offenses:

  • Arson
  • Sexual battery
  • Robbery
  • Aggravated abuse of an elderly person or disabled adult
  • Kidnapping
  • Aggravated child abuse
  • Aggravated assault with a deadly weapon
  • Murder
  • Aggravated manslaughter of a child
  • Unlawful throwing, placing or discharging of a destructive device or bomb
  • Aggravated manslaughter of an elderly person or disabled adult
  • Armed burglary
  • Aggravated battery
  • Aggravated stalking

15 Year Minimum Sentence

If a defendant possessed any of the following weapons while committing one of the above crimes, they are liable to a 15-year minimum sentence:

  • semi-automatic firearm
  • Machine gun

20 Year Minimum Sentences

Under this law, if an individual committed one of the above crimes listed under the first subsection and discharged a firearm or destructive device, the defendant will receive a 20-year minimum sentence.

25 Year to Life Minimum Sentences

If a defendant committed one of the crimes listed in the first subsection and a firearm or destructive weapon, or a semi-automatic rifle or machine gun, was discharged and resulted in severe bodily injury or death, they will receive a 25 year to life minimum sentence.

Increasing severity degrees

The “10-20-Life” law increases the severity of several crimes. Section 921.0022 and Section 921.0023 of the Florida Legislature contain a list of crimes and their designated severity degrees from 1st to 3rd degree. For this scale, 1st-degree crimes are the most severe, and 3rd-degree crimes are the least severe. Section 775.087 increases the degree of all previously referenced crimes by one degree.

Contact Pride Legal

If you or a loved one is seeking is facing criminal charges that could result in a 10-20-Life Law sentence, we invite you to contact us at Pride Legal for legal counseling or any further questions. To protect your rights, hire someone who understands them.

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