Florida Court Scraps Consecutive Sentences for Parking Lot Robbery

Florida gun crime cases often involve charges of multiple criminal offenses. When a person is convicted of more than one offense, courts may be called on to decide if prison time should run concurrently (at the same time) or consecutively (one after the other). A recent case out of Florida’s First District Court of Appeal provides some insight on the limits on consecutive sentences for cases involving gun crimes.A defendant was charged with robbery with a firearm and attempted robbery with a firearm, stemming from an incident in the parking lot of a Mexican restaurant in Pensacola. He was carrying a firearm when he allegedly approached six people and demanded money from them. He then moved toward one of the people, pointed the gun inches from the man’s head, and again demanded money. He allegedly approached each person in the group in the same manner and struck one of them with the gun, but he did not fire the weapon. He was convicted and sentenced to consecutive 10-year sentences, for a total of 20 years behind bars.

The defendant later appealed the decision, arguing that the trial court erred by sentencing him to consecutive sentences for two separate offenses that were part of the same criminal episode. The First District agreed.

“Consecutive sentencing of mandatory minimum imprisonment terms for multiple firearm offenses is impermissible if the offenses arose from the same criminal episode and a firearm was merely possessed but not discharged,” the court said, citing the Florida Supreme Court’s 2016 decision in Williams v. State. It also explained that consecutive sentencing “is permissible but not mandatory” in cases in which multiple crimes are committed at the same time and multiple victims are shot at.

In this case, the Court said there was no claim that the defendant ever actually fired the weapon.  It also found that the offenses for which he was convicted all happened as part of the same criminal episode. It noted that he allegedly pointed the gun at each victim and demanded money from each of them over the course of no more than five minutes. The court said the incident was similar to other cases in which the First District previously found that consecutive sentencing wasn’t appropriate. That included a case in which a person brandished a weapon in a funeral home filled with people but pointed it at only one person.

“We hold that [the defendant’s] course of conduct occurred within a single criminal episode, and because the firearm was not discharged, the consecutive sentences are impermissible,” the court concluded.

If you or a loved one has been charged with a gun crime in Florida, it is essential that you seek the advice and counsel of an experienced defense lawyer. Clearwater criminal defense attorney Will Hanlon is a seasoned lawyer who fights aggressively on behalf of clients charged with a wide range of crimes. Call our offices at (727) 897-5413 or contact us online to speak with Mr. Hanlon about your case.

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