Florida Court Discusses Crimes of Violence for Sentencing Purposes

Under federal law, people convicted of certain crimes lose privileges granted to most citizens. For example, people convicted of felonies constituting crimes of violence typically cannot lawfully carry or own firearms. As such, if a law enforcement agent stops a convicted felon and finds a gun in their possession, it could result in criminal charges. As discussed in a recent Florida case, the sentence for gun crime depends, in part, on the seriousness of the defendant’s prior convictions. If you are charged with a weapons crime, it is sensible to speak to a Sarasota gun crime defense lawyer to evaluate your options for protecting your interests.

Case Setting

Reportedly, in September 2019, the defendant was arrested for domestic violence battery, during which law enforcement discovered a loaded pistol in his possession. He was indicted for possession of a firearm and ammunition by a convicted felon, to which he entered guilty pleas. The presentence investigation report revealed the defendant’s two previous convictions for Florida felonies that were considered crimes of violence: aggravated assault in 2014 and felony battery in 2011.

It is alleged that in the felony battery case, the defendant was initially charged with several offenses, including possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, but eventually pleaded no contest to felony battery. The report of the defendant’s arrest detailed an altercation where the defendant allegedly strangled their partner. In the aggravated assault case, the defendant briefly left an argument to retrieve a handgun from their vehicle and returned to frighten the roommate of an acquaintance. The defendant contested the classification of these convictions as crimes of violence during sentencing.

Crimes of Violence for Sentencing Purposes

The court reviewed whether the defendant’s prior convictions constituted crimes of violence under the sentencing guidelines. For the felony battery conviction, the court applied the modified categorical approach, considering the arrest report incorporated into the defendant’s plea agreement.

Despite the defendant’s argument that the factual basis for their plea was unclear, the court found that the arrest report provided sufficient evidence of bodily harm battery, qualifying as a crime of violence. Similarly, for the aggravated assault conviction, the court rejected the defendant’s argument regarding the mens rea requirement, relying on recent precedent establishing that Florida’s aggravated assault statute demands specific intent, not recklessness.

Therefore, both convictions were deemed crimes of violence, justifying the base offense level used in the defendant’s sentencing. As such, the court affirmed the defendant’s sentence.

Meet with an Experienced Sarasota Criminal Defense Attorney

People charged with unlawful possession of weapons or other gun crimes may face significant penalties if they are convicted, especially if they have prior convictions for violent crimes. If you are charged with a weapons offense, it is in your best interest to meet with an attorney to evaluate your possible defenses. The experienced Sarasota gun crime defense lawyers of Hanlon Law have the resources and skills needed to achieve favorable outcomes in criminal cases, and if you hire us, we will advocate zealously on your behalf. You can reach Hanlon Law by calling 941-462-1789 or using the form online to arrange a meeting.

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