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Can a Prior Conviction Affect Your Current Criminal Case?

By Hager & Schwartz, P.A.

April 14, 2022

A first-time felony conviction already comes with severe punishments. But if you’ve got one or more prior convictions on your record, you could be looking at enhanced penalties. Florida law allows courts to impose extended prison terms or mandatory minimum sentences on individuals found to be repeat offenders.

Whether this is your first criminal charge or a subsequent one, your case should not be taken lightly. A conviction can seriously impact your future and freedom.

For help fighting your felony charge in Daytona Beach, contact Hager & Schwartz, P.A. at (386) 693-1637.

Potential Penalties for a First-Time Felony Conviction

For comparison’s sake, before discussing the possible punishments for second or subsequent felony offenses, let’s first look at those for first-time violations.

Florida has separate felony categories, including:

  • Life felonies,
  • First-degree felonies,
  • Second-degree felonies, and
  • Third-degree felonies.

The more severe offenses are classified as life felonies and the least severe as third-degree felonies. The state also has a capital felony category, but the enhanced penalty provisions discussed later do not apply to crimes in that group.

Upon a conviction for a first offense, you could be sentenced as follows:

  • Life: Life imprisonment
  • First-degree: Up to 30 years of imprisonment
  • Second-degree: Up to 15 years of imprisonment
  • Third-degree: Up to 5 years of imprisonment

If you’re found to be a repeat offender, the sentence you face can increase substantially. In some situations, the term can be double or triple what’s listed above. You could also be ineligible for early release or may have to serve a minimum amount of time in prison before seeking early release.

What Is a Repeat Offender?

Florida Statutes § 775.084 identifies four different types of repeat offenders. These are individuals with prior convictions on their records. A prior conviction includes any case resolved by putting a person on probation or community control without an adjudication of guilt.

The repeat offender designations are:

  • Habitual felony offender: This designation may be applied in your case if you have two or more prior felony convictions. The court can impose a lengthier prison sentence if convicted of a subsequent offense.
  • Habitual violent felony offender: You may fall under this category if you were convicted of one or more violent felonies, including:
    • Arson;
    • Sexual battery;
    • Robbery;
    • Kidnapping;
    • Aggravated abuse of a child, elderly person, or disabled adult;
    • Aggravated assault with a deadly weapon;
    • Murder;
    • Manslaughter;
    • Aggravated manslaughter of a child, elderly person, or disabled adult;
    • Unlawful throwing, placing, or discharging of a destructive device or bomb;
    • Armed burglary;
    • Aggravated battery; or
    • Aggravated stalking.

A court can impose a longer term of imprisonment if you are considered a habitual violent felony offender.

  • Three-time violent felony offender: You will receive this designation if you were previously convicted two or more times of any of the violent felonies listed in the previous section, as well as home invasion/robbery and carjacking. If the subsequent offense is any of the specified felonies, you will be subject to a mandatory minimum prison sentence.
  • Violent career criminal: You will be designated in this group if you have three or more prior convictions and were incarcerated in a state or federal facility for any of the following:
    • Forcible felony;
    • Aggravated stalking;
    • Aggravated abuse of a child, elderly person, or disabled adult;
    • Lewd or lascivious battery, molestation, conduct, or exhibition;
    • Escape; or
    • Possessing or using a firearm.

The Process for Determining a Repeat Offender Designation

Before the court can impose an enhanced sentence, the prosecutor must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that one of the repeat offender designations applies in your case.

You will receive notification that enhanced penalties are being sought, and the court will schedule you for a hearing. During the proceeding, you have the right to challenge the evidence and have a lawyer represent you.

Sentence Enhancements for Repeat Offenders

If the prosecutor meets their burden of proof that you should be designated a habitual felony offender, habitual violent felony offender, three-time violent felony offender, or violent career criminal, the court could impose certain enhancements as allowed by the statute.

For the enhancements to apply, your current alleged offense must have been committed:

  • While you were in prison;
  • Within 5 years of being released from prison; or
  • Within 5 years of completing probation, community control, conditional release, control release, or parole.

Your prior qualifying felony convictions must not have been pardoned or set aside. For the habitual felony offender designation, your previous conviction cannot have been for purchasing or possessing a controlled substance.

For habitual felony offenders, the court may impose sentences as follows:

  • Life or first-degree felonies: Life imprisonment
  • Second-degree felonies: Not more than 30 years in prison
  • Third-degree felonies: Not more than 10 years in prison

For habitual violent felony offenders, the court can impose the following enhancements:

  • Life or first-degree felonies: Life imprisonment without the possibility of early release for 15 years
  • Second-degree felonies: Up to 30 years of imprisonment without the possibility of early release for 10 years
  • Third-degree felonies: Up to 10 years of imprisonment without the possibility of early release for 5 years

Three-time violent felony offenders may be subject to the following mandatory minimum terms of imprisonment:

  • Life felonies: Life
  • First-degree felonies: 30 years
  • Second-degree felonies: 15 years
  • Third-degree felonies: 5 years

The court has the discretion to impose lengthier prison terms if it deems necessary.

A violent career criminal designation can result in the following:

  • Life or first-degree felonies: Life imprisonment
  • Second-degree felonies: Up to 40 years imprisonment with a mandatory minimum of 30 years
  • Third-degree felonies: Up to 15 years imprisonment with a mandatory minimum of 10 years

Contact Hager & Schwartz, P.A. for Aggressive Defense

Conviction penalties for a felony, whether a first or subsequent violation, can upend your entire life. But you can seek a favorable outcome in your case by fighting your charge or the prosecutor’s quest to seek a repeat offender designation. Our Daytona Beach team is ready to help.

Schedule an immediate initial consultation by calling (386) 693-1637 or submitting an online contact form.