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Florida Misdemeanor Law

While less serious than felonies, a Florida misdemeanor arrest and guilty finding leads to criminal records with the FBI and state police.

Florida misdemeanors carry a maximum punishment of a fine and up to one year in jail. Crimes for which a person may be punished by more than one year in jail or in prison are categorized in Florida as felonies.

Though they are less serious than felonies, misdemeanors are crimes. As a result being charged with a misdemeanor means arrest,handcuffs, mug shots, fingerprinting and the posting of bond. A misdemeanor can mean a permanent criminal record that may harm both educational and job prospects. Though rare, a person who leaves Florida when wanted by law enforcement for a misdemeanor warrant may be subject to extradition.

Florida: First and Second Degree Misdemeanors

 In Florida, misdemeanors come in two classes. These are defined as First Degree Misdemeanors and Second Degree Misdemeanors.

First degree misdemeanors are punishable by up to one year in jail and a $1000.00 fine. Second degree misdemeanors are punishable by up to 60 days in jail and a $500.00 fine.

 Examples of Florida First Degree Misdemeanors:

  • Simple battery
  • Bad Checks under $150
  • Boating under the Influence
  • Criminal Mischief (damage greater than $200 but less than $1,000)
  • Disorderly Conduct
  • Domestic violence/spousal abuse
  • Driving with a Suspended License with Knowledge
  • DUI/drunk driving
  • Driving with license suspended (2nd offense)
  • Indecent exposure
  • Lewdness
  • Loitering & Prowling
  • Marijuana possession (under twenty grams)
  • Petit (petty) theft (2nd offense)
  • Possession of drug paraphernalia
  • Reckless driving
  • Resisting an Officer without Violence
  • Shoplifting (under $300)
  • Solicitation for prostitution
  • Ticket Scalping
  • Trespass
  • Vandalism
  •  Prostitution

Examples of Florida Second Degree Misdemeanors:

  • Simple Assault
  • Criminal Mischief (where damage is $200 or less)
  • Petit Theft (first offense)
  • Simple Trespass
  • Driving on a Suspended License with Knowledge (first offense)
  • Attaching Tag Not Assigned
  • No Valid Driver’s License
  • Disorderly Conduct
  • Disorderly Intoxication
  • Loitering or Prowling
  • No Motorcycle Endorsement
  • Harassing Phone Calls
  • Expired Tag More Than 6 Months (second offense)

All crimes are defined by statutes. Florida statutes defining most crimes and penalties are found in Title XLVI, Chapters 775 – 896. Florida criminal procedure is found at Title XLVII, Chapters 900 – 985.

Possible Pleas in a Florida Misdemeanor Case

 A defendant charged with a misdemeanor in Florida may plead not guilty, guilty or nolo contendere (no contest). These pleas have different potential outcomes. When a not guilty plea is maintained it leads ultimately to a trial, either by a judge or jury.

A guilty plea or nolo contendere often is the result of a plea bargain with the state attorney making a sentence recommendation to the judge.

Judicial Options Following Plea or Finding of Guilty

 Upon a finding of guilty after a trial,[1]  after a plea of guilty, or a plea of nolo contendere, the judge has two initial options. In misdemeanor cases (and certain specific felonies) an adjudication of conviction may be entered, or such adjudication may be withheld.

The difference is significant in that an adjudication of conviction results in a permanent criminal record, and a case in which adjudication has been withheld may be eligible to be expunged or sealed.

Possible Sentences other Than Maximum

 A judge may sentence a guilty defendant to any period of jail less than the maximum and/or impose a fine less than the maximum. Additionally, there is the possibility of a period of probation that does not include jail, but may include other conditions such as community service, curfews, restitution, no contact with the victim or appropriate counseling for substance abuse or anger issues.

 

 



[1] In a misdemeanor trial, a defendant must be found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, just as in a felony case. Affirmative defenses can be available to misdemeanor defendants as well.

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