Years ago, Florida’s “tough on crime” legislature enacted a gun law called 10-20-Life, which says that if you possess a gun during the commission of a crime, it is automatically punishable by 10 years in prison, if the gun goes off, that’s 20 years, and if you shoot someone, that’s life (doesn’t matter if the person lives or dies). On paper, this sounds like a good deterrent for those who might consider bringing a gun to any crime they are committing. However, in real life, the law can lead to horribly unfair consequences.
Consider the case of the Orville Lee Wollard in Polk County, Florida, who fired a warning shot, in his own home, to scare away his daughter’s boyfriend. No one was hurt, Wollard had no prior criminal record, and he lawfully possessed the gun. Yet he was convicted of aggravated assault, which means that he put someone in fear for their safety using a weapon. Because the weapon in question was a gun – and it was discharged – he was sentenced to the mandatory 20 years in Florida prison. He will be eligible for release when he’s 73 years old.
In Florida, we’ve all read lots of stories where someone filed a “warning shot” to protect themselves or their families. Unfortunately this is called aggravated assault and it’s subject to the mandatory 10-20-Life sentencing. But, believe it or not, the same Republican led Senate which enacted the mandatory sentencing, has now “seen the light”. Yesterday the Florida State Senate voted unanimously to delete aggravated assault from the list of crimes subject to 10-20-life mandatory sentencing. In a state where gun owners are plenty, and where most other people were unaware of the law, this seems like a good thing.
Although this isn’t necessarily good news for those already sitting in prison because laws are generally not applied retroactively (and Gov. Rick Scott refuse Mr. Wollard’s plea for release), it is good news going forward. If you or someone you know was arrested for any type of gun charge – call us. 10-20-Life is still the law – it’s just relaxed a little.