Violent Felony Offender

The Florida Anti-Murder Act

In 2007 Florida enacted the so-called Anti-Murder Act in an effort to try and get dangerous criminals off the street. The Florida Anti-Murder Act prohibits a judge from setting bond for a violation of probation for everybody who has committed a sexually motivated charge or is considered a violent felony offender of special concern. The law further requires that the court cannot dismiss a violation of probation without having a hearing with witnesses. If the court finds that the person violated probation, the judge then has to decide after a hearing whether or not the person is dangerous. If the judge finds that the person is dangerous, he or she then has to sentence the person up to the maximum allowable prison time for the underlying offense the person was on probation for.

Who Qualifies as a Violent Felony Offender?

Florida Statute 948.06 classifies 3 groups of people as violent felony offenders of special concern.

  1. A Person who is on probation or community for any crime listed in the statute if that crime was committed on or after March 12, 2007, the date the Anti-Murder Act went into effect.

  2. A Person who is on felony probation or community control for any crime committed on or after March 12, 2007

    AND

    1. Who has previously been convicted of a crime listed in Florida Statute 948.06

      OR

    2. Who violated probation or community control by committing a listed charge.
  3. A Person who is on felony probation or community control for any crime AND meets the following two conditions:

    1. He or she is either a habitual violent felony offender, a 3-time violent felony offender or a sexual predator; and
    2. Who has committed one of the crimes listed below on or after March 12, 2007.

The statute lists the following crimes that trigger the status violent felony offender:

  • Kidnapping or attempted kidnapping
  • False imprisonment of a child under 13
  • Murder, manslaughter and attempted murder and attempted felony murder
  • Aggravated battery or the attempt to commit an aggravated battery
  • Aggravated assault
  • Aggravated stalking
  • Treason
  • Aircraft Piracy
  • Throwing a destructive device or bomb
  • Arson or the attempt to commit arson
  • Burglary or attempt to commit burglary as long as the charge is either a first or second degree felony
  • Abuse of a dead human body
  • Poisoning food or water
  • Robbery, carjacking or home invasion robbery or the attempt thereof
  • And any of the following sexual offenses: sexual battery, any lewd or lascivious offense, sexual

performance by a child or computer pornography, transmission of child pornography or buying and selling of a minor.

Consequences of Being Labeled a Violent Felony Offender on Violation of Probation

If anyone labeled a violent felony offender of special concern violates his or her probation, the court is not allowed to set a bond on the Violation of Probation or Community Control unless the only violation is a failure to pay costs, fines or restitution. The court is also not allowed to dismiss the Violation of Probation or Community Control without holding hearing.

If the judge finds that the person has committed any kind of violation other than the failure to pay costs, fines, or restitution, the court has to hold a hearing to decide if the person is a danger to the community before imposing a sentence. If the court finds that the person is a danger to the community, the judge has to impose a prison or jail sentence and is not allowed to continue the person on probation.

The Danger to the Community Hearing

The judge will consider the following factors when deciding whether or not the person is a danger to the community:

  • How the offender violated probation or community control and if there were any new charges committed and if there were what type of new charges,
  • The person’s prior criminal record and convictions,
  • Whether or not the person has violated probation or community before and whether or not there is were any disciplinary violations while the person was incarcerated, and
  • How strong the evidence against the defendant is as well as anything else the judge finds relevant.

Both the defendant and the state have a right to have witnesses called during the hearing and defendant is entitled to be represented by an attorney. At the end of the hearing the judge has to make written findings as to whether or not the defendant is a danger to the community if released from jail. The judge has to revoke the defendant’s probation and sentence him or her to jail or prison time if the judge finds that the defendant is a danger to the community.