In 1999, the Florida Legislature passed minimum mandatory sentencing that provides for enhanced penalties for offenders who commit crimes with guns. The experienced criminal defense lawyers at the Fort Lauderdale Law Firm of Berman & Tsombanakis LLC have handled many cases where client have been subjected to these minimum mandatory sentences. There are critics and proponents of these laws. Statistics show that gun violence has decreased since the passing of these laws. There are also statistics that show that many individuals with no criminal history or only prior misdemeanors are subjected to the negative implications of these laws.
In the past, judges had more discretion when it came to sentencing a first time offender or an individual with non violent misdemeanors and/or felonies. After the passing of 10-20-LIFE, it has become much more difficult for them to exercise discretion. A perfect example is a recent case in Jacksonville, Florida, involving an abused woman who fired shots in the air to scare of her husband. She was found guilty of three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. The judge in this case stated that he had no choice but to sentence her to 20 years in prison because of 10-20-LIFE.
In this case, the husband admitted to physically and mentally abusing not only his wife, but many other women in the past. There were depositions and testimony from him stating the same. On the day in question, the wife fired shots in the air after a failed attempt to escape the house through the garage door. The garage door was broken so she went back into the house, located the gun and fired the shots. The husband’s two sons from a previous relationship were in the house. This is the reason why there were 3 counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. There was also charges of child endangerment.
The defendant, Marissa Alexander had no criminal history and was a Finance Manager with an M. B. A. She and her husband were separated because of his abuse. There had been previous restraining orders filed against the husband. Duval County State Attorney, Angela Corey, who has now become very famous because of the Travon Martin case, previously stated that “the criticisms that she has taken over this case, has become loaded with misinformation and inaccuracies.” She has further stated that the defendant was offered a plea of 3 years and refused to take it. She further stated that on the day in question, Ms. Alexander was unharmed and fired in the direction of her husband and the two children. This last statement has been disputed by the defense.
U.S. Representative Corrine Brown of Jacksonville has taken a strong position in support of the Defendant. In the above referenced article, Congresswoman Brown stated that “State Legislators have informed her that laws like this were not meant for defendants like Ms. Alexander, but rather for habitual offenders.” Again, we must reiterate that Ms. Alexander had no criminal history. The lawyers at the South Florida Criminal Law Firm ofBerman & Tsombanakis LLC, have successfully handled cases similar to this where our clients were defending themselves and in fear of their lives. Our lawyers have also tried cases all over South Florida involving these minimum mandatory sentences.
- Mandates a minimum 10 year prison term for certain felonies, or attempted felonies in which the offender possesses a firearm or destructive device
- Mandates a minimum 20 year prison term when the firearm is discharged Mandates a minimum 25 years to LIFE if someone is injured or killed
- Mandates a minimum 3 year prison term for possession of a firearm by a felon
- Mandates that the minimum prison term is to be served consecutively to any other term of imprisonment imposed
To reform these laws or not has been a question in the minds of many. There are positives and negatives to both arguments. The allegations of racial bias in this case and many others is causing an uproar from supporters of Ms. Alexander. There are many who feel that she was not afforded the same opportunity to use the Stand Your Ground Law as a defense as others have been. The judge struck down her argument that she was Standing her Ground. After being sentenced to 20 years, New York Attorney, Michael Dowd, has agreed to take Ms. Alexander’s case and is preparing her appeal. Mr. Dowd has referred to this case as the worst injustice against a battered woman in his 30 years of practice.