It is no surprise that sentencing outcomes can be more severe if you have prior convictions.  If you have been previously convicted of a crime and are facing new criminal charges, it is crucial that you contact an experienced criminal defense attorney to learn more about your legal options and how to protect your rights.  Every state follows different sentencing guidelines especially for individuals with past convictions.  It is important to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney in your state to learn more about the sentencing guidelines applicable to you.

In Florida, individuals with a criminal past are given harsher sentences following subsequent convictions.  Of course, the guidelines depend on the type of offender and the specific crime committed.  Florida law requires sentencing enhancements for individuals known as “career criminals.”  Individuals that fall under this “career criminal” category include Habitual Felony Offender (HO), Habitual Violent Offender (HVO), Violent Career Criminal (VCC), and a Violent Felony Offender of Special Concern (VFOSC).  Each designation carries different sentencing guidelines.

Habitual Felony Offenders do not face any type of mandatory sentence.  Therefore, they do not have to be sentenced to a minimum sentencing standard. However, they can face up to double the sentencing for their crime.  Therefore, if a Habitual Felony Offender commits a third-degree felony which is punishable by a maximum of 5 years in prison, the offender could face up to 10 years in prison.   This is because the Habitual Felony Offender can serve up to double the maximum sentencing for his or her crime.  Thus, if a Habitual Felony Offender commits a second-degree felony, which is punishable by up to 15 years in prison, the offender can actually be sentenced up to 30 years in prison because of his or her career criminal status.  However, although a judge can impose an enhanced sentence for a Habitual Felony Offender, the judge is not required to do so.  Therefore, any enhanced sentencing is at the discretion of the judge.  More so, a judge can impose a sentencing below the guideline range for Habitual Felony Offenders.

On the other hand, Habitual Violent Offenders do face mandatory sentences.  A habitual violent offender convicted of a third-degree felony can face a maximum of 10 years in prison, but must serve a mandatory minimum of 5 years in prison.  A habitual violent offender convicted of a second-degree felony can face a maximum of 30 years in prison, but must serve a mandatory minimum of 10 years in prison.  A habitual violent offender convicted of a first-degree felony can face a maximum of life in prison, but must serve a mandatory minimum of 15 years in prison.  Although there is a minimum sentencing required for Habitual Violent Offenders, a judge can impose an extended prison term at his or her discretion.

A Violent Career Criminal also faces mandatory sentences.  A violent career criminal convicted of a third-degree felony can face up to 15 years in prison, but must serve a minimum of 10 years in prison.  A violent career criminal convicted of a second-degree felony can face up to 40 years in prison, but must serve a minimum of 30 years in prison.

A Violent Felony Offender of Special Concern cannot be released on bond. The offender must remain in jail until his or her hearing.  However, if the offender’s alleged violation is based solely on the failure to pay some type of court imposed fee or other cost, then he or she may be eligible for bond, otherwise bond is not permitted.

In order to classify under each of the “career criminal” classifications, certain criteria must be met.  Once that criterion is met, the sentencing enhancements can be imposed according to the statutory guidelines.  Only a qualified criminal defense attorney can help you determine what repeat offender designation and consequent sentencing enhancement applies to you.

Typically, a State Attorney’s office has a special division intended to handle cases that deal with “career criminals” and enhanced sentencing.  Prosecutors working within this special division are tasked with prosecuting repeat offenders aggressively.  Therefore, having an experienced criminal defense attorney working for you is critical in order to obtain the best results for your case.  Contact an experienced criminal defense attorney in your area today to discuss your case.

Contact experienced criminal defense attorneys Christopher Pagan and Julian Stroleny at Pagan & Stroleny, P.L. for all of your Miami and Broward criminal defense needs.  Call us today at (305) 615-1285 for a free consultation to learn how we can resolve your criminal case.