Florida’s sentencing guidelines set forth the minimum and maximum sentences that may be imposed for specific crimes. In addition to the standard sentence, the guidelines allow for enhancements if certain elements are met. There are requirements that must be met before an enhanced sentence can be imposed, however, as explained in a case recently decided by the District Court of Appeals of the Fifth District, in which the defendant was sentenced to an enhanced penalty following assault and battery convictions. If you are charged with assault, battery, or any other violent crime it is vital to engage a capable Tampa criminal defense attorney to assist you in formulating a defense and protecting your rights.
Facts Regarding the Charges and Conviction
The defendant was charged with aggravated battery and aggravated assault. The information alleged that the defendant committed an aggravated battery in the alternative. In other words, it alleged that the defendant used a firearm or knowingly caused great bodily harm in committing the battery. Following a trial, he was convicted of both counts. Regarding the aggravated battery charge, the jury included a special verdict that stated that the defendant possessed and discharged a firearm causing great bodily harm. Similarly, the guilty verdict for the aggravated assault charge contained a special verdict stating the defendant possessed and displayed a firearm in the course of committing the crime. The defendant was subsequently sentenced to twenty-five years imprisonment for each charge, after which he moved to correct the sentences, arguing they were illegal.
The post-conviction relief court granted the defendant relief as to the sentence for the assault charge. Thus, the appellate court only addressed whether the sentence for the battery charge was proper. The court noted that if a person is convicted of aggravated battery in which he or she discharged a firearm and as a result of the discharge caused great bodily harm, the person will be sentenced to an enhanced minimum sentence of twenty-five years imprisonment. To pursue an enhanced mandatory sentence due to the use of a firearm, however, the State is required to set forth the grounds for the enhancement in the charging document. The State’s failure to precisely charge the elements cannot be cured by a jury’s findings.