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Understanding misdemeanor charges in Florida

Understanding misdemeanor charges in Florida

| May 21, 2020 | Misdemeanors |

Most state laws classify crimes into three broad categories: infractions, misdemeanors and felonies. States determine which crimes fall into which category, considering the severity of the offense and an offender’s criminal record.

Florida law mostly concerns itself with misdemeanors and felonies, and rarely considers infractions. Residents who understand how Florida courts handle misdemeanors can help protect themselves and their future.

How does Florida classify misdemeanors?

Infractions are minor offenses like jaywalking, and often incur a warning or a fine. Felonies include more serious crimes that carry longer sentences in state prisons, not county jails. Misdemeanors fall in between, with punishments that include hefty fines and a prison sentence of up to one year.

Florida state law classifies misdemeanors as either First- or Second-Degree crimes, depending on the severity. Misdemeanors in Florida include:

  • Vandalism
  • Petty theft or shoplifting
  • Driving under the influence (DUI)
  • Possession of marijuana (<20 grams)
  • Battery
  • Domestic violence

The state punishes First Degree misdemeanors with up to one year of jail or probation and up to $1,000 in fines. Courts categorize more severe crimes that involve violence or destruction of property as First Degree misdemeanors. Second Degree misdemeanors are punishable by a $500 fine, up to six months of probation or even 60 days in jail. Second Degree infractions include driving with a suspended license or unlawful entry.

Courts process misdemeanors quickly, as well. No preliminary hearings are necessary; an offender faces a judge and hears their sentence. Unlike felonies, those charged will not have to wait for their trial in prison.

People facing misdemeanor charges need to take them seriously. Florida convictions remain on a person’s permanent record forever. Some states allow courts to expunge or seal the records of minor crimes, but not Florida. A Florida criminal record will follow a person into job interviews, loan applications and more.

Legal protections are available

Those facing misdemeanor charges can reach out to a local lawyer familiar with criminal defense for advice. An attorney can help get a case dismissed or will work with a judge to reduce the charges or fines.