Miami, Florida Habitual Felony Offenders
When a person commits multiple felonies during their life, the justice system responds by increasing the possible penalties for his/her subsequent crimes. In Florida, this type of law is known as Habitual Felony Offender law. This law is designed to increase the penalties for committing further felonies and in many cases, the increase is significant. If you are facing charges as a habitual felony offender, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side.
At Valiente Law, we have extensive experience handling habitual felony offender cases and can help you understand the specific risks in your case and the possible sentencing outcomes you face. Above all, we will build the best line of defense and work tirelessly to protect your rights and your freedom.
What is a Habitual Felony Offender?
A Habitual Felony Offender (HFO or HO) is someone who has been previously convicted of any combination of two or more prior felonies prior — the current charge cannot be used in calculating the prior felonies. If the court determines that the accused is a Habitual Felony Offender, the court can impose an extended term of imprisonment for current offense. In many cases, this increase effectively doubles the possible maximum sentence.
For example, if you are not a habitual offender and have been charged with felony aggravated assault, the maximum penalty you face is 5 years in prison. But if you are found to be a habitual offender, the maximum sentence you may receive doubles to 10 years. The charge is the same in both cases, but the penalty is elevated because of the change in habitual offender status. As you can see, being classified as a habitual offender is dramatically worse when it comes to the maximum penalty you face.
How does the court determine habitual felony offender status?
Since the law is complex, you will almost certainly need help understanding whether or not it applies to you. First, the Florida criminal courts require that you be notified if the prosecutor wants to try to have you classified as a habitual offender. The state must file a notice and provide copies to both you and your attorney.
The court will then have a special hearing to determine if you can be classified as a habitual felony offender. At that hearing, the prosecutor present evidence and arguments as to why you should receive this classification. You and your attorney will also have an opportunity to show why you do not qualify and make your own arguments. Remember: the state has the burden of showing you meet the requirements of habitual offender classification. If they lack the evidence, or are mistaken, the judge will deny their motion. While your criminal case will still be going on, the prosecutor will not be able to argue for a higher sentence if you are eventually convicted.
Following the hearing, you will receive notice of the judge’s decision, and you are allowed to appeal this decision. But even if you have received the habitual offender classification, don’t lose hope. Our experienced attorneys can still help you avoid a lengthy prison sentence.
The Court Has Options
Given the heightened stakes, having an attorney is necessary when it comes to a potential habitual offender classification. But there is something else that makes having an aggressive and talented attorney in your corner even more vital. The judge can ignore the HFO requirements, does not have to increase the maximum penalties and can sentence a habitual offender to a lesser sentence.
To do so, the judge must be convinced that the higher sentence is not in the interests of justice and not necessary to protect the public. This is a key point. Our experienced criminal defense attorneys can argue why the judge should not use the higher the higher sentencing range, even if it applies.
Contact Our Experienced Miami Criminal Defense Attorney
Valiente Law has a well-earned reputation for providing individuals accused of crimes in South Florida with first-rate legal representation. Well-versed in the Florida and Federal Criminal Punishment Code, our legal team has the skills and experience that can mean the difference between freedom and prison. If you have been charged with a felony, we will vigorously defend you and work tirelessly to protect your rights.
Please contact our office so we can walk you through how the Habitual Felony Offender law applies in your case, help you understand exactly what sentence you might face and prepare an aggressive and comprehensive defense to the charges against you.