The Florida Times-Union reported recently that a Jacksonville man could face a 120 year prison sentence for firing two shots without causing any injuries.
58 year old Randal Ratledge, who is classified as an Army Veteran, is on trial. Criminal defense attorneys for the defendant have requested that the judge hearing the case, Judge Jack Schemer, waive the mandatory guidelines, but it seems this is unlikely as he is required to follow guidelines laid down by state law. Only the assistant state attorney prosecuting the case can legally waive a minimum mandatory prison term.
Ratledge was charged with 6 counts of aggravated assault following a 2012 incident when communicating with his neighbors. It was reported that Rutledge fired shots up into the air and screamed insults at his 6 neighbors. After the incident was over he was charged with aggravated assault with a firearm to each of the 6 neighbors.
Florida’s 10-20-Life law, states that anyone who is convicted of a crime when a firearm was used faces a prison sentence of no less than 20 years. Ratledge’s criminal defense attorneys stated that he was taking Ambien, a sleep medication, which brought about a bad reaction and he was not in control of his actions when he confronted his neighbors.
It seems that Ratledge probably did not intend on harming his neighbors but there is not a lot that can be done to lessen the penalty, as Florida’s strict minimum mandatory statutes define the penalties and judges are not allowed to let anyone slip through the net. In the end prosecutors decide on whether to waive a minimum mandatory sentence, not judges. They use the prescribed sentences as defined in the Florida statutes and the sentencing guidelines contained in the Florida Criminal Punishment Code to come up with a recommended sentence if the defendant is convicted. Then it’s up to the judge to impose it, and an illegal sentence can be appealed by either side.
Ratledge is quite happy to plead guilty if the prosecutors would only give the judge a chance to set a lesser sentence than the minimum mandatory. The defendant would need a persuasive and aggressive criminal defense attorney to convince the state as well as the victims to achieve that – not an easy task. So far, Ratledge has been offered 18 years in prison which, taking into consideration his age, would be a life sentence.
Police reports have indicated that Ratledge was chatting with neighbors and friends close to his home when he ventured into his house and returned carrying a gun. He fired a shot into the air and soon after started bellowing profanities, which were followed by a second shot directed towards the group. That presents his defense attorneys with a difficult situation to defend.
Jackelyn Barnard, State attorney spokeswoman, said that prosecutors have been discussing the matter with Ratledge’s Florida defense attorneys. The state is in a difficult political situation as well when mandatory sentencing for certain offenses has already been proscribed by statute, but in this case they have actually been considering waiving the mandatory 20 year prison penalty.
Penalties are harsh in Florida, whatever the crime may be. The aim of the law is and should be to deter criminal behavior by punishing it. However, the discretion to do so should be left to the impartial Judge evaluating all of the facts and circumstances presented by each individual, on a case by case basis. This is because there are cases when a person charged with a particular crime does not deserve the stiff mandatory penalties imposed, but often there is little a Judge or even a criminal defense attorney can do to avoid them.
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If you have any questions about this or any other criminal accusation, call Miami Criminal Defense Lawyer Albert Quirantes at: 305-644-1800 or visit our homepage www.CriminalDefendant.com for a direct link to the office or a text message or a map and directions to our office.