When you’re charged with a crime in Florida, it will be a felony or a misdemeanor. At first glance, the most obvious difference is that the felonies are more serious than misdemeanors, but there’s more to the charge than just the seriousness. Legal charges and convictions carry serious and sometimes life-long penalties, so it’s not something you should take lightly. You should seek the best legal advice from a criminal defense lawyer, so you’ll know what to say and do.
You need to understand the difference between felonies and misdemeanors because the severity of the charges and the penalties will be different. With a misdemeanor, your punishment might be up to a year in jail. With a felony in Florida, your sentence could be a year or more in Florida State Prison. Charges are serious no matter what the degree or severity. So, here’s what you should understand about misdemeanors vs. felonies.
What Crimes Are Misdemeanors? How Are Misdemeanors Classified?
With the fact that misdemeanors are less severe, you can usually expect a lower fine. Misdemeanor crimes in Florida include disorderly conduct, driving under the influence (DUI), driving with a suspended license, giving alcohol to a minor, petty theft, possession of marijuana, shoplifting, trespassing, and vandalism. Depending on the case and your personal history, your charges may be upgraded or downgraded.
For a first-degree misdemeanor, you might expect fines of ~$1,000, sentences of up to one year in jail and 12-months of probation.
For a second-degree misdemeanor, you might expect fines of ~$500, sentences of up to 60 days in jail, and even six months of probation.
What Crimes Are Felonies? How Are Felonies Classified?
Some of the most common felonies in Florida include assault, battery, carjacking, grand theft, homicide, kidnapping, robbery, sexual battery, or even stalking.
These crimes involve life in prison with no possibility of parole. It could also mean the death penalty. It could also include an order to pay restitution.
For a third-degree felony, you might expect fines of ~$5,000 and a prison sentence of up to five years in prison. It could also include an order to pay restitution.
For a second-degree felony, you might expect fines of ~$10,000 and a prison sentence of up to 15 years in prison. It could also include an order to pay restitution.
For a first-degree felony, you might expect fines of ~$10,000 and a prison sentence of up to 30 years in prison. It could also include an order to pay restitution.
For a life felony, you might expect fines of ~$15,000 and a prison sentence of up to 40 years in prison. It could also include an order to pay restitution.
Special Drug Felony
For a special-drug felony involving trafficking certain drugs, you might expect fines of ~$500,000 and a mandatory prison sentence.
Beyond the specific degrees and special circumstances related to felonies, you will also face lifelong restrictions with a felony conviction. You’ll be restricted from voting in local and national elections. You also won’t be allowed to buy a gun. Many job applications involve questions about felony convictions, which may affect whether you get the job.
How Do Previous Convictions Affect Your Sentence?
With the “three strikes” rule, you may receive a longer prison sentence if this is the third in a series of felony convictions. Previous charges and convictions can also impact how the District Attorney files your case.
In some cases, the law might require a minimum sentence for a conviction on the charges in your case. When you have a criminal defense lawyer to represent you, you’ll have a better idea of what to expect and how to defend yourself against the charges. It may be that the lawyer will also work to reduce the charges so that the minimum sentence will no longer be a factor.
If You Are Charged with a Crime, What Steps Should You Take?
Criminal defense law is in flux, which is part of why it’s so important to consult with a criminal defense lawyer. No matter whether you may be charged with a misdemeanor or a felony, the charge is still serious. There are still a few steps you should consider if you are arrested and charged with a crime.
Here are a few tips you should remember:
- Remain silent. It’s your constitutional right, and your statements can be used in court by the District Attorney.
- Ask for a lawyer. You have the right to have one present during any interviews with the police.
- Consider the advice of counsel when making any decision regarding the charges and your legal case.
It may seem easy enough to represent yourself. Without a legal background, you won’t be prepared to properly represent yourself in court. Without an appropriate defense, you may do or say something that could incriminate you, or even just undermine the veracity of your case.
Why You Need a Good Defense Lawyer?
When you’re charged with a crime, or you think you may be charged with a crime, you should reach out to criminal defense lawyer Mike Panella to get the best possible advice and recommendations for what you should do. In most cases, the case won’t go to trial. You may be offered a plea deal, or the case could go in other directions.
Before you do, say, or sign anything, you should consult with an attorney. An experienced criminal defense attorney like Mike Panella will review evidence, interview witnesses, negotiate with the district attorney, and work on your behalf to resolve the case if possible. It’s always in your best interest to have a trained lawyer defend you in this case.