What Happened to Florida's Three Strikes Law?

In the 1990s, states began enacting mandatory sentencing laws for habitual offenders. These statutes came to be known as “three strikes laws” because they would be invoked once a repeat offender committed their third criminal offense.

By 2003, more than half of the states enacted some form of a three strikes law. The purpose behind these laws was to get the career criminals off the streets, however, critics argue that the sentences imposed upon offenders were often harsh when compared to the crime committed.

When people hear of career criminals in Florida, many wonder whatever happen to the state’s three strikes and you’re out law. Florida’s three strikes law is found under Section 775.084 of the Florida Statutes.

This law applies to individuals in the following categories:

  • Violent career criminals
  • Habitual felony offenders
  • Habitual violent felony offenders
  • Three-time violent felony offenders

Some people are confused by the state’s three strikes law. People may think that the law applies to anyone who has committed three offenses, but it doesn’t. That’s why it’s not uncommon to see people who are frequent offenders who will have more bookings than birthdays but somehow seem to get arrested and be back out on the street again.

The above commonly occurs with property crimes. The catch is, Florida’s “three strikes law” only applies to violent felonies. We’re talking about arson, sexual battery, aggravated child abuse, aggravated battery, manslaughter, and murder – those types of crimes.

In order for an offender to receive a mandatory prison sentence, they must meet certain criteria. While the public’s perception is that if you commit three strikes, you’re out – that’s not the case.

For a judge to apply the habitual offender law, all three of the offenses must be separate violent felonies that occurred within a five-year timespan. Plus, the accused must have been convicted of the crime, not just arrested.

In reality, it’s very difficult to meet that standard.

If a person does meet that standard, then a judge can sentence the defendant to anywhere from five years to life in prison.

Many states have enacted laws similar to Florida’s “three strikes law.” California for example, was known for having one of the harshest three strikes laws in the nation up until 2012, when changes in the law softened how the state treated three strike cases.

Are you facing a possible “third strike” on your record? Don’t wait, contact a Tampa criminal defense lawyer from Thomas & Paulk, P.A. to discuss your situation with a former prosecutor!