Crimes Are Classified By Type in Florida, and so is The Punishment

Man Arrested for a felony and a misdemeanor crime in Fort Lauderdale, Florida

The severity of a crime is usually used to determine whether it is classified as a felony or a misdemeanor. All states in the United States treat felony charges with much greater severity than misdemeanor charges. 

Within both felony and misdemeanor charges, there are degrees of severity. There are first-degree felonies, second-degree felonies, and third-degree felonies in Florida. There are also first-degree misdemeanors and second-degree misdemeanors in Florida. The degrees relate to terms of severity of the crime and correlate to the crime’s punishment. 

For instance, a felony of the third degree is treated differently than a felony of the first degree. A first-degree misdemeanor is treated with more severity than a second-degree misdemeanor.

What is the Difference Between a Felony and a Misdemeanor Crime in Florida?

It is important to keep in mind that Florida’s criminal laws are written to provide punishments for a variety of considerations, including the loss that may have happened, physical harm, motivation, and whether there was a period of premeditation or conspiracy involved – this is particularly true of crimes involving loss of life (such as murder) or laws governing organized crime.

Misdemeanor crimes are typically classified as crimes of mischief or incidents without violence and with low economic losses. A perfect example of a misdemeanor crime is a petit theft crime. DUI is also classed as a misdemeanor, but a Florida DUI crime may be enhanced to a felony if there has been severe property damage, injuries, or a loss of life.

Felony crimes are a more severe category of crimes in Florida, and depending upon the physical harm, property damage, or property loss, a felony may result in anywhere from a few years of probation to life in prison or worse.

The most important thing to remember is that when you are charged with any crime, you should always treat it seriously. Misdemeanors may result in less severe punishment, but in many states, including Florida, the more times you are convicted for the same type of misdemeanor crime, the more likely the state may wish to prosecute subsequent offenses under so-called “habitual offender” laws, which can escalate a misdemeanor crime into a felony crime. 

Using our previous example of petit theft, which is a misdemeanor, Florida law automatically escalates petit theft to a first-degree misdemeanor for any person previously convicted of a theft crime in Florida. A person who has been convicted twice, for petit theft, will be charged with a third-degree felony.

What are the Penalties for Felony & Misdemeanor Crimes in Florida?

A set of handcuffs sit on a police officers desk in South Florida

The classification and degree of a crime determine punishment. For misdemeanor crimes, including misdemeanor drug crimes, DUI, petit theft and the like, the sentence and fines for such crimes range from probation to a short jail term. If you are found guilty of a misdemeanor in Florida, you will typically spend less than 1 year in jail. Fines also generally are imposed, along with court costs and the cost of prosecution. Often, a person who has never been convicted of a crime will receive only a fine, without any jail term, for a first-time misdemeanor conviction. However, this is not always the case.

A felony crime is treated much more severely, and will also result in the loss of certain rights, including the right to vote or hold public office. You may even be denied the issuance or renewal of a Florida driver’s license. Felony sentences range from a period of probation to several years in state prison.  Florida is also a death-penalty state, and that means convictions for first-degree murder, particularly with a proven period of premeditation, may result in a death sentence conviction.

Misdemeanor Crime Consequences in Florida

Misdemeanor crimes in Florida could lead to up to 60 days in jail or up to 1 year in a local Florida jail. Fines can also range all the way up to $1,000 if convicted. Misdemeanors crimes are lesser crimes than felonies. A second-degree misdemeanor crime is a lesser offense than a first-degree misdemeanor. 

Second-degree misdemeanor penalties in Florida

  • Jail: first-degree misdemeanor convictions can lead to up to 60 days in jail.
  • Fine: first-degree misdemeanor convictions can lead to fines up to $500 in Florida.

First-degree misdemeanor penalties in Florida 

  • Jail: first-degree misdemeanor crimes can be punishable by up to 1 year in jail.
  • Fine: first-degree misdemeanor crimes can lead to fines up to $1,000 in Florida.

Felony Crime Consequences in Florida

First-degree felonies are the most serious felony charges in Florida. Third-degree felonies are the least serious felony charges in Florida.

Third-degree felony penalties in Florida

  • Prison: third-degree felonies can be punishable by up to 5 years in prison.
  • Fine: third-degree felonies can lead to fines up to $5,00 in Florida.

Second-degree felony penalties in Florida

  • Prison: second-degree felonies can be punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
  • Fine: second-degree felonies can lead to fines up to $10,00 in Florida.

Third-degree felony penalties in Florida

  • Prison: first-degree felonies can be punishable by up to 30 years in prison.
  • Fine: first-degree felonies can lead to fines up to $10,00 in Florida.

Of course, this overview is very broad and should not be considered legal advice. It is meant to convey a general clarification of the differences between the types of crimes and their classifications and punishments. 

Also, it is critical to remember each state is different. What constitutes a misdemeanor in Florida may be a felony in another state, or vice-versa. For instance, in Florida, possession of a small amount of marijuana is only a misdemeanor. In Las Vegas, however, any amount of marijuana results in a felony charge. The theft of $900 worth of goods in South Carolina is a misdemeanor, but the same crime in Florida may be treated as a felony.

How Soon Should I Hire a Criminal Defense Attorney for a Misdemeanor or Felony Charge in Florida?

You should hire a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible after your arrest. 

An important factor to consider is that oftentimes a charge by the police at the time of the arrest can be reconsidered by the State Attorneys Office. During the state attorney’s filing period window, which is approximately 21 days from the date of the arrest, it is possible for the charge to be modified. 

Criminal Defense Attorney Glenn Roderman and Philip Johnston have been very successful in the past with persuading the state to not file a charge or charges or to consider a less serious offense. If hired within 21 days of an arrest, it is possible for us to communicate with the state attorney’s office and to begin negotiations immediately.

Suppose you are charged with a misdemeanor or felony crime in Florida. In that case, it is important to consult with your defense attorney about the facts of your case, the information presented by the prosecutor, your defense options, and the risks that are involved in your situation.

Free Criminal Defense Consultation for Anyone Arrested for a Felony or Misdemeanor in South Florida

We’ve helped many people get their misdemeanor and felony charges dismissed in South Florida. We are ready to fight for you to get the best possible outcome on your criminal case as well.

Give us a call today to schedule your free consultation. We have offices in Boca Raton and Fort Lauderdale and serve all of South Florida and beyond.

Being accused of any level of crime in Florida can be very stressful, even if the charges are false. Contact our office today to schedule a free appointment to discuss your criminal case. We’re here to help.

Call for a Felony or Misdemeanor defense consultation with a skilled and compassionate defense attorney today: 954-764-6800