Florida’s mandatory minimum sentences is very complicated. One issue that comes up in more serious cases is “mandatory minimum” sentences. Mandatory minimum sentences are minimum punishments created by the legislature that the judge does not have any discretion to ignore.

An example of a mandatory minimum is the 10/20/Life law. That law says that if you commit certain felonies and possess a firearm during the commission of those felonies, the judge must sentence you to 10 years in prison at a minimum. If you discharge the gun, the mandatory prison sentence increases to 20 years. If someone is seriously injured or dies as a result, the minimum increases to 25-Life.

If convicted of one of these charges, the judge must give you at least the minimum. The judge could give you more.

Mandatory minimums exist in other cases as well. Drug trafficking charges carry mandatory minimum sentence that increase as the amount of drugs increases. Child molestation charges and DUI Manslaughter charges also carry mandatory minimums.

Assuming you are unsuccessful at either negotiating with the prosecutor for a lesser sentence or convincing a jury to acquit you, there is only one exception to a mandatory minimum sentence: youthful offender. The judge may go below the mandatory minimum sentence if you are have not been indicted, you are under age 21 at the time of sentencing, and the crime with which you are charged is not categorized as a life or capital felony. If the judge finds these things, he or she can sentence you as a youthful offender and give you any sentence he or she wants up to six years in prison, including probation. This law gives the judge discretion, but it does not require him to act. In other words, even if you qualify, the judge can still sentence you to the mandatory or more.

If you are facing a mandatory minimum sentence, you need an expert criminal defense attorney to help you.

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