Miami Violent Career Criminal

Convictions of three or more serious felonies in the state of Florida impose burdens beyond a prison sentence. Offenders convicted of multiple serious felonies must register with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which maintains a public database of violent career criminals. Failure to register as a violent career criminal carries with it additional charges that could result in prison time.

If you have convictions for multiple felonies it can be difficult to determine what your obligations are under Florida law. Rely on the guidance and representations of the criminal defense attorneys at Valiente Law, Miami’s top legal resource, to explain the requirements and assist you in complying.

What is a Violent Career Criminal?

Florida Statute 775.084(d) defines a violent career criminal as a defendant:

  1. That has previously been convicted as an adult at least three times for
    • Any forcible entry;
    • Aggravated stalking;
    • Aggravated child abuse;
    • Aggravated abuse of the elderly or disabled;
    • Sexual assault, battery, or molestation;
    • Escape by a prisoner; or
    • Felony possession of a firearm.
  2. That has served time in state or federal prison;
  3. That committed the felony after October 1, 1995
    • While serving a prison sentence for a prior felony; or
    • Within five years of release from a sentence for a prior felony; and
  4. That has not received a pardon or had the conviction overturned.

Generally, if you have been convicted of three or more serious felonies in any state as an adult and reside in Florida, you are required to register with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. The statute also requires anyone convicted of a felony similar to those listed in another state or jurisdiction to register as a violent career criminal as well.

Who Determines if a Defendant is Declared?

The Florida criminal courts conduct a proceeding to determine whether a defendant is a violent career criminal prior to sentencing. The court will conduct a hearing, separate from the criminal trial, where it will hear evidence on prior convictions and determine whether the defendant is a violent career criminal. The defendant is allowed to have an attorney and is given the opportunity to dispute any evidence presented and cross-examine any witnesses.

After the hearing, the court must make findings to explain the basis for determining the defendant is a violent career criminal, which the defendant may appeal.

What is the Impact of Being Declared?

Being declared a violent career criminal can dramatically increase a defendant’s minimum sentence for the crime committed. Once a court determines a defendant is a violent career criminal, the court must impose mandatory minimum sentences. The minimum sentences are different depending on the degree of the felony being sentenced for.

  • For life felonies (punishable by life in prison) or first degree felonies (punishable by up to 30 years in prison), the sentence is life in prison;
  • For second degree felonies (punishable by up to 15 years in prison), the minimum sentence is 30 years with a maximum sentence of 40 years;
  • For third degree felonies (punishable by up to five years in prison), the minimum sentence is 10 years with a maximum sentence of 15 years.

In the case of second and third degree felonies, the minimum sentence for violent career criminals is twice that of the maximum sentence for the same felony otherwise. This means a designation can add years to a sentence, making it even more important to appear and offer a defense at a proceeding to determine whether a defendant is a violent career criminal.

Contact Our Miami Criminal Defense Attorney

Like many of Florida’s criminal statutes, the statute defining a violent career criminal and the procedures related to being declared is complex and require specific facts and evidence. An experienced criminal attorney can assess the state prosecutor’s reasons for seeking the violent career criminal designation and determine whether the qualifications have been met based on a defendant’s criminal history. For instance, the state prosecutor must establish the felony occurred within the appropriate timeframe or that out of state convictions are substantially similar to the Florida convictions falling under the statute.

An attorney can represent a defendant at a proceeding to declare him or her a violent career criminal. There the attorney can object to the state prosecutor’s evidence, cross-examine witnesses, and introduce evidence on behalf of the defendant. In certain cases, the criminal court has discretion in making a violent career criminal determination and an experienced attorney can point out when that discretion should be applied.

If you are a defendant facing charges and have previously been convicted of one or more felonies it is important that you seek legal representation. Failing to do so could result in substantially more prison time. The team at Valiente Law is experienced with all aspects of criminal law and can help guide you to the best possible outcome in your case, offering a free initial consultation to better understand your needs.

Contact us for a consultation!