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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.—
  1. Felonies are classified, for the purpose of sentence and for any other purpose specifically provided by statute, into the following categories:

    1. Capital felony;
    2. Life felony;
    3. Felony of the first degree;
    4. Felony of the second degree; and
    5. 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.

  2. Misdemeanors are classified, for the purpose of sentence and for any other purpose specifically provided by statute, into the following categories:
    1. Misdemeanor of the first degree; and
    2. 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.

  3. 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.
Misdemeanor and Felony Offenses in Florida

Examples of crimes classified as misdemeanors in Florida include:

  • Battery
  • 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
  • Shoplifting
  • Trespassing
  • Vandalism

Examples of crimes classified as felonies in Florida:

  • Aggravated assault
  • Aggravated battery
  • Battery on a law enforcement officer
  • Burglary
  • Child abuse
  • Drug possession (with the exception of marijuana)
  • Engaging in continuing criminal enterprise
  • Felony battery
  • Grand theft
  • Homicide
  • Kidnapping
  • 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.

Client Reviews

I would like thank my attorney Thomas Luka. I knew from the beginning I had the right guy in my corner. While celebrating with family and friends at a Public Park in Seminole County, a fight broke out among various people. Myself, and a good friend, broke up the fight and the instigators left. Six months later, I was wrongly accused as the person who started the fight. The first attorney I hired could not even get a response from the State Attorney handling the case. Someone referred me to Tom and I felt comfortable at his demeanor and reactions.

After conversations with Tom, who knew I would settle for nothing less than a FULL DISMISSAL due to my innocence, I hired him. His firm of Adams and Luka did the due diligence by interviewing witnesses and the police who were on the scene, as well as starting a dialogue with the State Attorney. After gathering statements from witnesses, Tom was able to present a strong argument on my behalf to the State Attorney on why the case should be dismissed. If the State Attorney was not willing to dismiss the case, Tom was ready to take the case to trial.

The result by Thomas Luka: Case Dismissed.

I am 53 years old with a spotless record and glad to keep it that way thanks to the time, effort, hard work, and professionalism of the Adams and Luka and Tom Luka.

Earl from Mesquite
Thomas Luka left a life-long great impression of lawyers. He was always professional, on time, and answered things honestly. From the start and during the 14 months it went on - Tom was very upfront and honest with me about the possible outcomes. The result was better than I had hoped for. Tom really over-delivered. HIGHLY RECOMMEND. Marcela Giorgi
Adams and Luka were very professional and savvy in the courtroom. When you're in court with Mr. Luka you will think you have the best attorney there. I recommend this law firm. Pioneer Tech
Rich Adams is an outstanding criminal attorney. I have had the opportunity to refer several friends and clients to his practice for handling of criminal matters, and on every occasion he has produced an excellent result. Rich practices with attention to detail, a thorough knowledge of the law, and a passion to defend his clients. I will continue to refer clients to Rich Adams, and would strongly recommend him for your legal needs. Brian Pink