Career Criminal Sentencing Enhancements in Florida

September 2, 2022 Criminal Defense

In Florida, those who repeatedly violate the law can be exposed to enhanced sentences in order to reduce recidivism. Recidivism is the number of former prisoners who end up being rearrested for a similar offense. There are several provisions federally and within Florida that provide for increased penalties when a defendant has repeatedly committed serious offenses.

This article will provide a general, non-exhaustive explanation of Florida’s Habitual Offender, Violent Felony Offender, and Violent Career Sentencing Enhancements, as well as how a skilled defense attorney may be able to assist in your case.

Federal Sentencing Enhancement – Armed Career Criminal Act

18 U.S.C. § 924(e) covers the Armed Career Criminal Act which requires recidivist defendants who have been convicted of a-felon-in-possession-of-a-firearm charge or three prior state or federal violent felony or serious drug convictions, separate from one another, to be sentenced to a mandatory term of 15 years in prison.

This enhanced prosecution measure is used to combat against repeat offenders who make up around 6 percent of the population but commit 70 percent of all violent crimes.

A crime of violence refers to a felony offense that:

  • “Has as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person or property of another, or
  • That by its nature, involves a substantial risk that physical force against the person or property of another may be used in the court of committing the offense.”

If an individual is convicted in federal court under the Armed Career Criminal Act, the offender will be sentenced to 15 years in prison and a $25,000 fine with no possibility of probation or parole.

Florida Habitual Offender Enhancement

Florida Statute Section 775.084(1)(A) covers Florida’s habitual felony offender enhancement. It states that a defendant will be classified as a habitual felony offender if the court finds that:

  • The defendant has been previously convicted of a combination of two or more qualifying offenses
  • The current felony the defendant is to be sentenced for was either:
    • Committed while the offender was still imprisoned,
    • Committed while on supervision or within five years or release from incarceration or supervision for a previous qualifying felony, or
    • The current felony the defendant is to be sentenced for and one of the prior convictions is not for purchase or possession of a controlled substance.

Sentencing Judges enjoy some discretion during the sentencing of habitual felony offenders, If the judge determines that designating the offender as a habitual felony offender is unnecessary to protect the public, they may disregard the designation altogether. In such cases, the Sentencing Judge can then sentence the defendant according to Florida’s Criminal Punishment Code without imposing sentencing enhancements.

If the Sentencing Judge finds that it is in the best interest in protecting the public to enhance the defendant’s sentence, he may be punished with life in prison for life felonies or First-Degree Felonies, no more than 30 years for Second-Degree Felonies, and no more than 10 years for Third-Degree Felonies.

Florida Violent Felony Offender Enhancement

Florida Statute Section 775.084(1)(B) details the habitual violent felony offender enhancement. It states that a person may be classified as a habitual violent felony offender if the court finds the following two items met:

  1. The defendant has a previous, separate conviction that was not pardoned or set aside in a post-conviction proceeding, for a felony, attempted felony, or conspiracy to commit a felony and one or more of the convictions were for one of the following:
  • Aggravated abuse of the elderly or disabled
  • Aggravated assault
  • Aggravated child abuse
  • Aggravated manslaughter of the elderly or disabled
  • Aggravated manslaughter of a child
  • Aggravated battery
  • Aggravated stalking
  • Armed burglary
  • Arson
  • Kidnapping
  • Murder
  • Manslaughter
  • Robbery
  • Sexual battery
  • Throwing, placing, or discharging a destructive device


  1. The felony for which the defendant is to be sentenced was committed while the defendant was still serving a sentence for a previous conviction of an enumerated offense or within five years of conviction or release for an enumerated offense.

Florida Violent Career Criminal Enhancement

Florida Statute Section 775.084(1)(D) details information about violent career criminals and what charges can result in such a designation.

The statute details the three findings a court must make before designating a defendant as a Violent Career Criminal:

  1. The defendant has three or more separate adult convictions for either:
    • A forcible felony
    • Aggravated stalking
    • Aggravated child abuse
    • Aggravated abuse of an elderly or disabled adult
    • Lewd, lascivious, or indecent conduct
    • Escape
    • A felony firearms offense
  • The defendant has not been pardoned or had their sentence set aside in a post-conviction proceeding.
  1. The defendant has been incarcerated in a state or federal prison.
  2. The criminal offense was committed on or after October 1, 1995, is part of the above-listed offenses, and:
    • Occurred while serving a prison sentence or other type of legal supervision for an enumerated offense, or
    • Within five years of conviction or release from incarceration or supervision for a prior enumerated offense, whichever is later.

Finding a Defense Attorney in Tallahassee, Florida

If you or a loved one have been accused of a potential felony crime and think you may qualify for enhanced penalties, it is imperative that you reach out to a skilled criminal defense attorney in your area. Don Pumphrey and his team at Pumphrey Law Firm have represented clients all across the state of Florida and promise to work tirelessly to ensure your freedom. For a free consultation call (850) 681-7777 or leave an online message on our website.

Written by Gabi D’Esposito

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