Florida Sentencing Enhancements Pt. 2: Habitual Felony Offenders & Habitual Violent Felony Offenders


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This article presents an overview of the Habitual Felony Offender and Habitual Violent Felony Offender statutes. Unlike the PRR statute, which precludes the court from imposing a sentence that is less than the statutory maximum, these recidivist provisions increase the statutory maximum and, in the case of an HVFO, impose certain minimum mandatory prison terms as well.

A habitual felony offender is a defendant for whom the court may impose an extended term of imprisonment if it finds that (1) the defendant has been convicted of two or more felonies in this or another state; (2) the current offense was committed while the defendant was incarcerated for a felony, on felony supervision, or within five years after a felony conviction or release from state
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prison; and (3) the felony for which the defendant is to be sentenced, and one of the two priors is not an offense involving the purchase or possession of controlled substances. Where the defendant does qualify, the state is required to serve a notice of enhanced penalty to the defendant in order to invoke the provisions of the HFO statute.

Where the person qualifies as an HFO, and proper notice has been filed and served, the maximum penalties authorized by law are enhanced as follows: (1) in the case of a felony of the third degree, from five years to ten years; (2) in the case of a felony of the second degree, from fifteen years to thirty years; and (3) in the case of a felony of the first degree, from thirty years to life. Unlike the PRR statute, the court does have discretion under the HFO statute; it is not required to impose an HFO sentence if it makes a factual finding that the sentence is not necessary for the protection of the public.

A habitual violent felony offender is a defendant for whom the court may impose an extended term of imprisonment if it finds that the defendant has previously been convicted of any of the following offenses, or an attempt or conspiracy to commit any of the following offenses: (1) arson; (2) sexual battery; (3) robbery; (4) kidnapping; (5) aggravated child abuse; (6) aggravated abuse of an elderly person or disabled adult; (7) aggravated assault with a deadly weapon; (8) murder; (9) manslaughter; (10) aggravated manslaughter of an elderly person or disabled adult; (11) aggravated manslaughter of a child; (12) unlawful placing, throwing, or discharging of a destructive device or bomb; (13) armed burglary; (14) aggravated battery; or (14) aggravated stalking. Additionally, the court must find that the current offense was committed while the defendant was incarcerated for, or on felony supervision for having committed an enumerated felony, or within five years after a conviction or release from state prison on an enumerated felony.

Like the HFO statute, the state is required to serve a notice of enhanced penalty to the defendant in order to invoke the provisions of the HVFO statute. Also, the court is not required to impose an HVFO sentence if the court finds that it is not necessary for the protection of the public.

Where the person qualifies as an HVFO, and proper notice has been filed and served, the maximum penalties authorized by law are enhanced as follows: (1) in the case of a felony of the third degree, from five years to ten years, with a five year minimum mandatory; (2) in the case of a second degree felony, from fifteen years to thirty years, with a ten year minimum mandatory; and (3) in the case of a felony of the first degree, for life, with a fifteen year minimum mandatory.

If you have prior felony convictions, and have been charged with a felony, you should consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney to discuss the applicability of these enhancements.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Donald J. Kilfin, The Kilfin Law Firm, P.C.
Donald J. Kilfin is a former Pinellas county state prosecutor. He owns and operates The Kilfin Law Firm, P.C., a Tampa Bay area DUI and criminal defense firm representing clients in St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Tampa, New Port Richey, Dade City, and Bradenton.

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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.

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