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Misdemeanors vs. Felonies – What You Should Know

25 February 2017

Understanding the law is the civic duty of every citizen, and is not as complicated as many people say it is. Generally, the law is broken into two distinct categories: felonies, and misdemeanors. While these two categories do have some commonalities, the difference between them is important. As part of our commitment to our community, we are going to be exploring misdemeanors and felonies in greater detail.

Misdemeanors

As a whole, misdemeanors are less serious crimes. Some examples of misdemeanors are drunk driving, assault, and prostitution. Even though the consequences are not as grave as they are for felonies, you still have to go through the entire legal process, which means handcuffs, mug shots, and a criminal record.

In Florida, misdemeanors are further divided into categories: first degree and second degree. Second degree misdemeanors tend to be nonviolent offenses, such as disorderly conduct, petty theft, and driving without a valid license. The maximum sentences for these crimes is 60 days in county jail and/or a $500 fine. First degree misdemeanors entail crimes of anti-social behavior. Simply battery (i.e. beating someone), prostitution, and lewdness are all first-degree misdemeanors. If you are convicted of a first-degree misdemeanor in Florida, you will spend no more than one year in jail, and your fine is capped off at $1,000. Judges are more lenient with first time offenders, and it is rare that the maximum sentence is assessed.

For most misdemeanors, once the sentence is over, no further suspension of rights takes place. If someone is convicted of stalking, which is a first-degree misdemeanor, they may be at risk of having their gun rights taken away via an injunction.

Felonies

Felonies are nothing to trifle in. Child abuse, murder, and burglary are all considered felonies in the state of Florida. Trials for felonies are longer and more drawn out, and the government favors their better and more experienced prosecutors to handle felony cases.

Like misdemeanors, felonies are divided by the severity of the crime. There are capital felonies, life felonies, and felonies of the first, second, and third degrees. Third degree felonies, such as possession of cocaine or resisting an officer with violence, carry the smallest sentences, with up to 5 years in prison or a maximum of a $5,000. Arson and manslaughter are second degree felonies which may result in a fine up to $15,000 and a maximum stay in prison of 15 years. If someone has robbed another person with a weapon or engaged in a serious white-collar crime, they have committed a first-degree felony. They might go to jail for up to 30 years or be fined up to $15,000 dollars.

Life and capital felonies are the most severe crimes. Life felonies are named such because being convicted of these crimes means spending the rest of your life behind bars. Kidnapping a child and being an accomplice to murder are considered life felonies. Capital crimes are the most heinous crimes a person can do. Murder is a capital crime, for which the state might impose the death penalty.

Prosecutors must employ a considerable amount of nuance when deciding which category of crime to try someone with. For example, when someone is in a bar fight, that is a misdemeanor. If they use a baseball bat or a knife, then it is a felony. Florida has no statute of limitations for capital and life penalties, so the police and prosecutors are not restrained by any time limits. Serial offenders, when the offenses were violent, face harsher punishments after their second conviction.

If you are facing charges, you need a lawyer, even if you did not do the crime. Chad Piotrowski is a personable, experienced, and tenacious attorney who will fight for you. Do not hesitate to call us, since you cannot deal with the police and prosecutors on your own.

Chad Piotrowski - post author

Chad Piotrowski is a criminal defense attorney in Miami, Florida. He is a former Miami-Dade Prosecutor and has practiced criminal law, exclusively, for more than 10 years.

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