Defendants charged with violent crimes face penalty enhancements, which means longer prison sentences than those imposed for nonviolent offenses. But what constitutes a violent crime? Under Florida law, it can include crimes in which violence is used or merely threatened.

Florida considers a crime to be violent if it involves the use of force. Violence may be the means and not the goal of the crime. For example, when force is used to take property from a victim, the theft could constitute a violent crime. As such, Florida’s violent offense list includes a wide range of crimes, including robbery, burglary, and kidnapping. But the law also considers it a violent crime to merely threaten the use of violence, even if it is never actually carried out. For example, where an individual threatens bodily harm to accomplish a robbery or a kidnapping, this can rise to the level of a violent offense.

Importantly, not all threats will result in charges of a violent offense. The threat must be made in circumstances where there was a reasonable probability of physical harm. For example, if two online gamers get into a fight online and one threatens to beat the other up, this would likely not be sufficient to create a “threat of harm” because the two individuals are not in the same physical location and there is minimal risk of actual physical violence. In other circumstances, however, a serious threat can expose an individual to significant charges for a violent crime. For example, under Florida’s 10-20-Life law, possession of a firearm during a threat can lead to a minimum 10-year sentence, and use of a firearm to carry out a threat, even if it does not hurt anyone, can lead to a mandatory minimum 20-year sentence.

If you have been charged with a violent crime based on an alleged threat, you should consult an experienced criminal defense attorney who can consider the facts of your case and who will fight aggressively for your rights. There may be available defenses to the charges or mitigating factors that can reduce your sentence.

The Law Offices of Tad A. Yates, P.C. in Orlando represents Florida residents who face accusations of violent crimes. If you have questions or need representation, please us at 407-608-7777 or contact us online anytime.

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