There’s a well-known expression that advises would-be lawbreakers not to do anything risky unless they are prepared to suffer the potential consequences of their illegal activity should things not go as planned: “Don’t do the crime, if you can’t do the time!” The meaning is clear. If you are caught committing a crime and are convicted in a court of law, your sentence may include a considerable stretch in prison. So before you make up your mind to do something illicit, think long and hard about the time that you might have to spend languishing in jail.
In Florida, as in most states, almost all criminal offenses are classified into two broad categories – misdemeanors and felonies. Misdemeanors and felonies differ in various ways. Misdemeanors are crimes that are usually deemed less serious than felonies, and thus have less severe penalties. For example, if a monetary fine is imposed for a misdemeanor conviction, it will usually be less than one imposed for a felony conviction. In addition, while a misdemeanor conviction generally carries a maximum jail sentence of up to one year, a felony conviction has a minimum conviction of at least one year or more.
While misdemeanor cases have no preliminary hearings – the defendant simply faces a judge and is sentenced without a jury trial – an indictment or a preliminary trial it held to determine the charges in a felony case, and the perpetrator may be imprisoned while awaiting a jury trial. Also, while a misdemeanor conviction sentence will be served in a county or city jail, a felony conviction will be served in a state penitentiary or a federal prison. Lastly, misdemeanors carry no life-long restrictions, while felony convictions may prevent one from ever buying a gun or voting in elections.
Misdemeanor Offenses in Florida
The following offenses are considered misdemeanors in Florida:
- Petit (petty) theft
- Domestic violence
- Disorderly conduct
- Giving alcohol to a minor
- Driving with a suspended license
- Driving under the influence (DUI)
- Possession of less than 20 grams of marijuana
Misdemeanors are classified into First and Second Degree crimes. First Degree Misdemeanors are punishable by up to one year in jail and/or 12 months of probation and a $1,000 fine. Some First Degree Misdemeanors are: battery; cruelty to animals; and possession of drug paraphernalia. Second Degree Misdemeanors are punishable by up to 60 days in jail and/or six months probation and a $500 fine. Some Second Degree Misdemeanors are: driving with a suspended license; disorderly intoxication; and some trespassing charges.
Felonies in Florida
Some common felonies in Florida include: assault, battery, carjacking, homicide, incest, kidnapping, robbery, sexual battery, stalking and grand theft. Punishment for a felony can range between one year and death, depending on the felony and degree of the felony. The Florida legislature has created five categories of felonies, plus a separate category for certain drug crimes:
Felony of the Third Degree
A defendant who has been convicted of a felony of the third degree may be punished by a term of imprisonment in a state prison, not exceeding five years and a fine of up to $5,000. In addition, the defendant may also be ordered to pay the victim restitution as ordered by the court. Some Third Degree Felonies are: cocaine possession; burglary; resisting arrest with violence; driving as a habitual traffic offender; forgery with intent to defraud; and a third or subsequent DUI.
Felony of the Second Degree
A defendant who has been convicted of a felony of the second degree may be punished by a term of imprisonment in a state prison, not exceeding 15 years and a fine of up to $10,000. In addition, the defendant may also be ordered to pay the victim restitution as ordered by the court. Some Second Degree Felonies are: aggravated battery with a weapon; serious child abuse; possession of a controlled substance with intent to sell; receiving stolen property; and sexual battery.
Felony of the First Degree
A felony in the first degree is punishable by no more than thirty years imprisonment in a state prison and a fine of up to $10,000. In addition, the defendant may also be ordered to pay the victim restitution as ordered by the court. Some First Degree Felonies are: DUI manslaughter while leaving the scene of an accident; robbery with a weapon; first degree homicide, human trafficking; carjacking; and knowing forgery of prescription labels or prescription drug labels.
A life felony is punishable by 40 years to life imprisonment in a state prison and a fine of up to $15,000. In addition, the defendant may also be ordered to pay the victim restitution as ordered by the court. A defendant may be convicted of a Life Felony for subsequent convictions of First Degree Felonies, or for the violent crimes of, for example: kidnapping; possessing, selling or using a weapon of mass destruction; accomplice to murder; unpremeditated murder; lascivious molestation of a victim less than 12 years old; robbery with a firearm or other deadly weapon.
A capital felony is punishable by death or life imprisonment without the possibility of parole in a state prison. In addition, the defendant may also be ordered to pay the victim restitution as ordered by the court. Capital felonies include: murder; capital drug trafficking; armed kidnapping; and some felony crimes when there are death or sexual components to the felony charge.
Trafficking in certain controlled substances are felonies which can carry mandatory minimum sentences and fines of up to $500,000.
Florida criminal statutes are complex and are constantly changing. If you are charged with a criminal offense, whether a felony or misdemeanor, you need to seek immediate legal counsel. Some crimes can be upgraded or downgraded according to aggravating factors, and in some cases, a felony charge may be reduced if it can be proven that there was no intent to commit a crime.
When you are accused of a crime, your freedom, your reputation, and your family’s well-being may be at stake. Do not attempt to defend yourself. Here at Dimond Kaplan & Rothstein, P.A. our experienced criminal defense lawyers stand ready to help you navigate through the court system while preparing your defense to the best of our abilities. Don’t wait, contact us today.
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If you have questions regarding white collar crimes or criminal defense litigation, please do not hesitate to contact us for a free consultation so we can review your case. We are happy to meet or speak with you anytime. Our legal team is highly experienced, aggressive, and will fight for your rights!