Felonies are the most severe crimes that a person can be charged with. A conviction for these charges can result in hefty fines, long-term prison sentences, or the death penalty in murder cases. As a result, if you are facing felony charges in Florida, you should contact a criminal attorney as soon as possible.
According to the Office of Economics & Demographics’ Criminal Justice Trends report, Florida had 148,722 felony filings in 2020. Out of these filings, 14.8% resulted in imprisonment. Since they are punishable by at least one year of prison, felony offenses in Florida should not be taken lightly.
Given that the law and the criminal justice system can be confusing, we will discuss key information about felony crimes in Florida in the sections that follow. Should you have any specific questions about your case, consider consulting with an experienced criminal attorney near you.
As former prosecutors and public defenders, the attorneys at Goldman Wetzel have a long-standing commitment to representing clients facing criminal charges in Florida. If you want to know what we can do to help you, get in touch today to book a free consultation.
Florida Felony Crimes: What Qualifies As a Felony?
Florida Statute §775.08 establishes that a felony is any criminal offense that can be punished either by death or imprisonment. Unlike a misdemeanor, the incarceration sentence for felony offenses extends for more than one year, and the term is served in state prison.
In a broad definition, felonies are more serious crimes in Florida than misdemeanors. Consequently, the punishments for these offenses are also more severe. The penalties associated with a felony in Florida depend on numerous factors, such as the nature and severity of the crime.
When it comes to these types of offenses, it is important to distinguish between a forcible felony and a non-violent felony. As its name suggests, a non-violent felony is a crime that does not involve the use of violence. Some common examples of these crimes include different forms of fraud, theft, and possession of certain controlled substances.
Forcible felonies, on the other hand, involve the threat or use of force or violence against another person. Therefore, a person does not necessarily have to be harmed for a felony to be considered forcible. Some offenses that Florida classifies as forcible include murder, sexual battery, robbery, burglary, arson, carjacking, and aggravated stalking.
Since they could result in the harm of another person, forcible felonies in Florida can lead to more serious consequences. If you are facing criminal accusations, our Pinellas criminal lawyers can help you evaluate the charges against you.
Examples of types of felonies our defense lawyers handle
Florida Title XLVI gathers, defines, and classifies criminal offenses. With over 20 years serving the Tampa Bay area, the lawyers at Goldman Wetzel have extensive experience fighting these offenses. Some of the most common felonies charges we handle include, but are not limited to:
- Aggravated stalking
- Aggravated assault and battery
- Child abuse
- Drug trafficking
- Murder or manslaughter
- Lewd and lascivious acts
- Child pornography charges
- Sexual battery
Being accused of committing a felony offense is a grave allegation. A seasoned criminal attorney can help you explore your legal options and potential defense strategies.
Felony Degrees in Florida
As mentioned above, felony charges in Florida encompass severe criminal offenses. However, felonies are classified into five different levels depending on the gravity of the crime. According to the Statute §775.081, the degrees of felonies in Florida are:
- Capital felony
- Life felony
- First-degree felony
- Second-degree felony
- Third-degree felony
Capital felonies are the most serious types of crimes. As a result, these offenses can lead to life imprisonment without parole or, if there are enough aggravating factors, to the death penalty. Premeditated homicide or killing a person while committing certain offenses are examples of capital felonies in Florida.
Life felonies are the second most severe. As its name suggests, a conviction for this type of crime means that offenders can be imprisoned for the rest of their natural life. Certain sex offenders or human trafficking actions against minors are some of the offenses that can be classified as life felonies.
In Florida, 1st-degree felonies encompass severe crimes that can result in long-term imprisonment and fines. Offenses that are considered first-degree felonies include but are not limited to certain grand-theft crimes, armed robbery, significant wire fraud offenses, and second-degree murder.
A conviction for a second-degree felony can also result in long prison sentences and expensive fines. Some examples of felonies of the second degree include aggravated assaults, certain sexual battery offenses, and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.
Third-degree felonies represent the least severe classification of felony crimes. However, a conviction for this type of offense can still lead to fines and imprisonment. Examples of 3rd-degree felonies include, but are not limited to, carrying a concealed weapon without a permit, lesser forms of burglary, child neglect, and possession of certain drugs.
Penalties for felony charges
The penalties associated with a felony crime in Florida depend on the type of charge the alleged offender faces. According to the law, these are the sentences for felony crimes:
|Type of felony||Maximum Imprisonment||Maximum Fine|
|Capital||Life / Death penalty||–|
|First degree||30 years||$10,000|
|Second degree||15 years||$10,000|
|Third degree||5 years||$5,000|
Even though these are severe enough penalties, there are other potential consequences that convicted felons in Florida may face, such as the loss of some of their civil rights.
When determining a sentence, the judge may take into account some of the following factors:
- Age of the victim.
- Offender’s prior convictions.
- Nature and severity of the crime.
- Use or threat to use violence.
- Presence of a second offense while committing the felony.
For example, let’s suppose that an alleged offender faces a burglary charge. Normally, this crime is considered a felony of the second degree in Florida. However, when committing this crime, the offender was carrying a gun and assaulted a person that was inside the dwelling.
Since there was use of force, the burglary charge fits the definition of forcible felony. In simple terms, this means that the severity of the crime increased. In this case, the burglary charge escalated to a first-degree felony.
Statute of Limitations on Felony Crimes
Florida law establishes a time limitation to pursue felony crimes. Capital and life felonies or felonies that result in death have no statute of limitations and can be pursued at any time. The statute of limitations for 1st-degree felonies is four years and three years for 2nd and 3rd-degree felonies.
Additionally, there are certain felonies that, due to their nature, have an extended statute of limitations. For example:
|Crime||Statute of Limitations|
|Felony that resulted in the harm of a person and the use of a destructive device||10 years|
|Medicaid fraud||5 years|
|Elderly abuse or neglect||5 years|
|Insurance fraud||5 years|
Charged with a Felony? Speak to a FL Criminal Attorney
Felony charges are severe accusations that can lead to long-lasting consequences. Since these allegations are a threat to your freedom and future, you should enlist the help of a knowledgeable criminal lawyer that can help you pilot the complexities of the legal system.
Goldman Wetzel is a Florida criminal law firm. With over 20 years of experience, our defense lawyers have represented clients facing criminal charges in the Tampa Bay Area and surrounding cities.
If you’re facing Felony charges in Florida and want to explore the potential defenses for your case, our criminal lawyers can help you. Call (727) 828-3900 today or send us a message to book a 100% free consultation with our legal team.
Frequently Asked Questions About Felony Charges in Florida
Below are some common questions that you may have about felony charges in Florida. Keep in mind that this is general information. As a result, if you want to talk about the specific circumstances of your case, you should look for a criminal attorney near you.
Can you vote with a felony in Florida?
In Florida, convicted felons for murder or sexual offenses are not allowed to vote unless their voting rights are restored. People convicted for any other felony can vote as long as they have completed all the terms of their sentence, which can include:
- Prison time.
- Parole or probation.
- Paying fines, fees, and restitution.
How many misdemeanors equal a felony in Florida?
In Florida, some severe offenses are always charged as felonies. However, certain crimes that start as misdemeanor offenses can escalate to a felony if the person commits that crime multiple times.
For example, petit theft is a misdemeanor offense. However, if the offender has been convicted two or more times for this theft crime, a subsequent charge will be treated as a felony of the third degree.
Is prison mandatory for a felony in Florida?
People found guilty of a felony in Florida may serve prison time. In order to determine a sentence, the judge uses a scoring system provided by the Florida Criminal Punishment Code. If the offense scores less than 44 points, the judge may dictate an alternative to incarceration, such as probation.
Can a FL criminal lawyer reduce a felony to a misdemeanor?
Although it is not a guarantee, in some cases, having the help of an experienced criminal attorney may help you reduce a felony charge to a misdemeanor. A lawyer may be able to reduce charges by negotiating with the prosecutor and agreeing to a plea bargain.
The ability to perform these negotiations depends on the nature of the offense and the person’s past criminal history. In some cases, first-time offenders who were charged with a non-violent felony may be able to reduce their charges. Since this requires a good understanding of the law, you should consult a St. Petersburg criminal attorney.