What is The Difference Between a Misdemeanor and a Felony?
In the state of Florida, as in most other states, the majority of crimes are classified as either a misdemeanor or felony. You may already know that misdemeanor offenses are those considered less serious, and therefore usually punished less harshly than crimes classified as felonies which generally are more serious and result in harsher penalties both in terms of monetary fines and prison time. While this is the primary difference, there are other differences as well.
When a person is charged with a misdemeanor offense in Florida, there is no preliminary hearing or trial before a jury. Sentencing is determined when the defendant goes before the judge. In a felony case however, the alleged offender may be incarcerated pending a jury trial. Those who are convicted on misdemeanor charges and who are sentenced to jail time typically serve their time in a city or county jail, whereas a defendant found guilty of a felony offense and sentenced to time behind bars will serve out the time in a state or federal prison. The maximum jail time in a misdemeanor case is generally one year. You need an experienced Central Florida criminal attorney no matter what you’re charged with.
Florida Statute 775.081 defines how felony and misdemeanor offenses are classified:775.081 Classifications of felonies and misdemeanors.—
Felonies are classified, for the purpose of sentence and for any other purpose specifically provided by statute, into the following categories:
- Capital felony;
- Life felony;
- Felony of the first degree;
- Felony of the second degree; and
- Felony of the third degree.
A capital felony and a life felony must be so designated by statute. Other felonies are of the particular degree designated by statute. Any crime declared by statute to be a felony without specification of degree is of the third degree, except that this provision shall not affect felonies punishable by life imprisonment for the first offense.
- Misdemeanors are classified, for the purpose of sentence and for any other purpose specifically provided by statute, into the following categories:
- Misdemeanor of the first degree; and
- Misdemeanor of the second degree.
A misdemeanor is of the particular degree designated by statute. Any crime declared by statute to be a misdemeanor without specification of degree is of the second degree.
- This section is supplemental to, and is not to be construed to alter, the law of this state establishing and governing criminal offenses that are divided into degrees by virtue of distinctive elements comprising such offenses, regardless of whether such law is established by constitutional provision, statute, court rule, or court decision.
Examples of crimes classified as misdemeanors in Florida include:
- Disorderly conduct
- Domestic violence
- Driving with a suspended license
- DUI (driving under the influence)
- Giving alcohol to a minor
- Petty theft
- Possession of marijuana in an amount less than 20 grams
Examples of crimes classified as felonies in Florida:
- Aggravated assault
- Aggravated battery
- Battery on a law enforcement officer
- Child abuse
- Drug possession (with the exception of marijuana)
- Engaging in continuing criminal enterprise
- Felony battery
- Grand theft
- Resisting an officer with violence
- Sex crimes
Regardless of whether you have been charged with a misdemeanor or felony offense it is vital to work with a criminal defense attorney who will work to protect your legal rights and help you reach positive results in your case. Contact us now for a free consultation.