Florida classifies criminal offenses into two separate categories: misdemeanors and felonies. While either type of charge could carry life-altering legal consequences, the different categories of offense are distinguished by the amount of time an alleged offender could spend behind bars.
The Difference Between Felony and Misdemeanor Charges
Most people understand that felony charges are more serious than misdemeanors. However, the difference between felony and misdemeanor charges is not only definitional:
- In general, a misdemeanor is any criminal offense which is punishable by up to one year in county jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
- In general, a felony is any criminal offense which is punishable by more than one year in state prison or federal prison and a fine of more than $1,000.
Misdemeanor and felony offenses can be further divided into separate subcategories of severity.
Misdemeanor Classifications in Florida
Florida law defines two degrees of misdemeanor offenses:
- Misdemeanors of the First Degree. Punishable by up to 1 year in county jail and a fine of up to $1,000. Examples of first-degree misdemeanors include battery, cruelty to animals, and possession of drug paraphernalia.
- Misdemeanors of the Second Degree. Punishable by up to 60 days in county jail and a fine of up to $500. Examples of second-degree misdemeanors include driving with a suspended license, prostitution, and trespass in an unoccupied property.
Capital and Life Felonies in Florida
Florida law states that felonies can fall into two separate categories:
- Capital Felonies. A capital felony is any felony offense that could be punished by death or life in prison without the possibility of parole. First-degree murder is among the most common capital felonies.
- Life Felonies. A life felony could be punished by life imprisonment and a fine of up to $15,000. Examples of life felonies include kidnapping, sexual assault of a minor, and second-degree murder.
Felony Classifications in Florida
While some Florida felony offenses could be considered capital felonies or life felonies, state law also defines three separate degrees of felony offenses:
- Felonies of the First Degree. Punishable by up to 30 years in prison and fines of up to $10,000. Examples of first-degree felonies include carjacking, burglary with assault, or aggravated battery on a law enforcement officer.
- Felonies of the Second Degree. Punishable by up to 15 years in prison and fines up to $10,000. Examples of second-degree felonies include vehicular homicide, DUI manslaughter, and the use of a firearm in the commission of a crime.
- Felonies of the Third Degree. Punishable by up to 5 years in prison and fines up to $5,000. Examples of third-degree felonies include aggravated stalking, criminal trespass, and possession of most controlled substances.
If You’re Facing Criminal Charges, You Need an Attorney
While felony crimes carry far harsher penalties than misdemeanor offenses, any criminal conviction can irrevocably alter a person’s life. If you are found guilty of a misdemeanor or felony, you will have a permanent criminal record. Even if your record could eventually be expunged, you could face immediate consequences, including:
- Significant jail time
- Steep fines
Your record could also make it substantially more difficult to:
- Find a job
- Earn professional licenses
- Get an apartment
- Join the military
- Go to college
- Secure financial aid
- Qualify for certain government benefits
You could also lose your right to vote, own a firearm, and participate in certain civic processes.
Contact Us Today
Flaherty & Merrifield Criminal Defense has years of experience helping Floridians beat misdemeanor and felony charges. We could gather the evidence needed to beat your indictment outright, or reduce a life offense to a misdemeanor conviction.
When your future is at stake, you deserve better than an over-burdened public defender—you deserve counsel who will do everything to preserve your freedom. Contact us online or call us at 850-243-6835 to schedule your free, discreet, and no-obligation consultation as soon as possible.
Contact an Okaloosa County Criminal Defense Attorney
If you or a loved one have been charged with a felony in Okaloosa County, call Flaherty & Merrifield today at (850) 243-6097 for a free consultation.