“Violent crimes” refer to offenses that involve force, violence, or the threat of force or violence. It is a broad term that refers to various offenses spanning from aggravated assault to murder. Because of the sensitive nature of cases involving harm, Florida imposes the harshest of penalties on defendants convicted of violent crimes.
If you have been arrested for or are under investigation for a violent crime, call 727-828-3900 and request a free consultation with one of the violent crimes lawyers in Clearwater at Goldman Wetzel to discuss your legal options.
What Constitutes a Violent Crime
Whether the state designates an offense as violent is an important distinction because the courts impose significantly stiffer penalties for violent crimes than for non-violent offenses. Also, if a defendant has a history of violent crimes, the state may determine him as a “habitual violent felony offender,” which grossly magnifies the potential penalties.
Florida Statutes do not include an explicit definition of “violent crime.” However, the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice provides a “Violent Offense List” which falls in line with the FBI’s simple and broad definition of violent crimes: “Offenses which involve force or threat of force.”
Two key things to keep in mind about violent crimes:
- People often associate violent crimes with aggression and bodily harm, but an incident need not involve injuries for the state to categorize an offense as “violent.” An attempt to harm or the threat of harm can constitute a violent offense.
- An offense does not have to include violence as the primary objective (such as murder) for it to fall into the violent crime category. Even when a defendant uses violence as a means to an end or due to a split-second decision while committing another non-violent crime, e.g., shooting a passenger while committing a grand theft auto, the state can still charge him with a violent offense.
Examples of Violent Crimes Goldman Wetzel Handles
We can handle any of the following types of violent crimes cases:
- Sexual battery;
- Robbery and armed burglary;
- Aggravated child abuse;
- Domestic violence;
- Aggravated assault;
- Aggravated battery;
- Murder or manslaughter;
- Placing or discharging of a destructive device;
- Aggravated stalking; and
Potential Penalties for Violent Crimes
Penalties for violent crimes vary depending on the charges, the defendant’s criminal history, and the types of aggravating factors involved. Long-term imprisonment and fines are a real possibility for most people convicted of a violent crime — even for first-time offenders. Some defendants face enhanced penalties and a mandatory minimum prison sentence, as well.
Florida deems a few violent crimes, such as simple assault, misdemeanors, but categorizes many violent crimes as felonies that can result in 30 or more years in prison. First-degree murder, the most serious type of violent crime, is the only crime that may result in the death penalty.
When you work with the criminal attorneys at Goldman Wetzel, we will explain exactly what penalties you face, the best- and worst-case scenarios, and how we can strategize your defense to minimize the prospect of decades in prison.
Habitual Violent Felony Offender Status
The court imposes extended prison terms with mandatory minimums for people labeled as “habitual violent felony offenders.” Per Florida Statute § 775.084(1)(b), the state will designate you as a habitual violent felony offender if:
- The court previously convicted you of a violent felony crime;
- The current alleged offense occurred within five years of your last case (or while you were serving a prison sentence or probation for a prior conviction); and
- You did not receive a pardon.
The state also has a special designation for offenders with two prior violent offenses: “three-time violent felony offender.” Three-time violent felony offenders face an even greater mandatory minimum term of imprisonment. Defendants convicted of a third violent felony must serve the entire maximum sentence. For example, if convicted of a first-degree felony, they must serve a term of 30 years imprisonment, during which time they are not eligible for early release.
Crafting a Strong Defense Strategy for Violent Crime Charges
The penalties for violent crimes are exorbitant. Contact our firm straightaway to discuss how we can help. We will review all the details of your situation, take a close look at the evidence and potential weaknesses in the state’s case, and brainstorm the most advantageous ways to posit your defense.
This typically involves one of three approaches:
- Proving your innocence;
- Establishing that the incident in question does not meet the criteria for a violent crime; or
- Convincing the court that the proposed penalties are extreme and unfair.
The circumstances and facts of your case determine the most appropriate defense. Defenses that may prove useful for violent crimes include:
- You were acting in self-defense.
- You were acting in defense of another person.
- You were acting in defense of property.
- The authorities have accused the wrong person.
- The harm was accidental; you had no intention to commit the crime.
- The allegations are false.
- The state has insufficient evidence.
- The victim’s fear of harm was exaggerated or invalid.
How Goldman Wetzel Can Help with Violent Crime Cases
Our attorneys, who have over 30 years of combined experience, work in tandem on each case we accept, giving you dual counsel and powerful legal support. We handle all types of state and federal violent crime cases in Clearwater and throughout Florida.
With backgrounds in both prosecution and defense, our attorneys understand how both sides operate and the optimal approaches for violent crime cases. No matter how challenging the situation is, Goldman Wetzel stays equipped to handle the full spectrum of legal defense matters, from counsel, investigation, and negotiating with the state, to pre-trial motions, rock solid courtroom defense, and appeals.
Rest assured, when you entrust your case to us, our team will invest our time and resources to fight doggedly on your behalf and push for the best possible outcome.
Consult Our Violent Crimes Lawyers in Clearwater Today
The sooner you enlist our help, the sooner we can get to work on protecting your rights and building your case. If you or a loved one has been arrested or is facing violent crime charges, contact Goldman Wetzel today to speak to one of our criminal defense attorneys in Clearwater: 727-828-3900.