Florida misdemeanors are considered to be less serious crimes. While they may not be as severe as a felony, a misdemeanor charge can still result in incarceration, expensive fines, and a permanent criminal record without a proper defense. If you have been charged with a misdemeanor in Florida, you should seek advice from a criminal lawyer near you.
In the sections below, you will find essential information about misdemeanor charges in Florida. On top of explaining what these charges mean, we will also discuss the penalties associated with these offenses, their statute of limitations, and some important exceptions to keep in mind.
If you were charged with a misdemeanor, a Florida criminal defense attorney could help you determine the best course of action for your case. At Goldman Wetzel, our lawyers have represented clients facing criminal charges for over 20 years. If you want to know how we can help, contact us to schedule a free consultation.
What Is a Misdemeanor Offense in Florida?
In Florida, the term misdemeanor refers to any criminal offense that could be punished with up to one year of incarceration in county jail. In addition to serving jail time, misdemeanor offenders are also subject to pay a fine of up to $1,000.
Similar to felonies, misdemeanors are also classified based on their severity. As you can imagine, this classification also encompasses the type of sentence associated with a crime.
According to Florida law, these offenses can be categorized as:
- Misdemeanor of the second-degree – Less severe
- Misdemeanor of the first-degree – More severe
Generally speaking, misdemeanors in Florida are crimes that resulted in low economic losses or did not involve a high level of violence against another person. For example, many criminal mischief activities, such as vandalism and petit thefts, are considered misdemeanors.
Due to their characteristics, misdemeanor offenses are usually more common than felonies. In fact, according to Data Collaborative for Justice, misdemeanors represent between 75% to 80% of the majority of crimes nationwide.
Although they can result in jail time, in some cases, an experienced criminal defense attorney in Florida can negotiate this sentence into different alternatives such as probation. Our St. Petersburg criminal lawyers can help you explore your options.
Types of 1st-degree misdemeanors we can help with
As explained before, misdemeanors in the first degree are the most serious type of misdemeanor in Florida. Some examples of these types of offenses include, but are not limited to:
- Simple battery
- Domestic violence (first offense)
- Violation of injunction for protection
- Driving with a suspended license (second offense)
- Some theft offenses
- Possession of marijuana
Examples of 2nd-degree misdemeanors we handle
2nd-degree misdemeanors are the less severe forms of crime. Some examples of misdemeanors of the second degree that our criminal defense attorneys handle include:
- Disorderly intoxication
- Disorderly conduct
- Certain petit theft offenses
- Possession of alcohol by a minor (first offense)
- Solicitation of prostitution
- Simple assault
If you were charged with a misdemeanor in Florida, it does not mean that you have been convicted and have to serve jail time. In order to serve a sentence, the alleged offender must plead guilty, or the prosecution must prove that he or she committed the crime.
As established before, the penalties associated with a conviction depend on the type of misdemeanor. According to Florida Statute §775.082, the maximum sentences for a misdemeanor crime are:
|Type of Misdemeanor
Be aware that certain circumstances may enhance the penalties associated with a misdemeanor offense. For instance, if you are charged with simple battery for the second time, your charges will escalate from a first degree misdemeanor to a third degree felony. Committing a misdemeanor against elderly people could also enhance your charges.
Given that misdemeanors in Florida are less serious crimes, the Court may decide that probation is a suitable alternative punishment in many cases. Although you do not lose your freedom, being on probation means that you have to meet the conditions set by the Court.
As a general rule, first-time offenders in Florida may receive a more lenient sentence than a habitual misdemeanor offender. Habitual offenders (commonly referred to as “repeat offenders”) are people who have been convicted for a misdemeanor more than one time. These types of defendants may be sentenced to serve mandatory jail time or to commit to a residential treatment program for at least 6 months.
If you want to explore the penalties associated with a misdemeanor charge and potential defense strategies, you should contact an experienced criminal attorney near you.
Statute of limitations on Florida misdemeanor offenses
In Florida, the prosecution has a limited amount of time to pursue a misdemeanor case. The statute of limitations for a misdemeanor of the second degree is one year and two years for first-degree misdemeanors. The statute of limitations comes into effect the day the crime was committed.
Florida Misdemeanor Exceptions
With most misdemeanor crimes in Florida, the police are allowed to arrest you if they have a warrant or have witnessed the crime. However, certain offenses fall into misdemeanor exceptions and do not follow these rules.
In simple terms, with certain crimes, the police officer does not need to have a warrant or witness the criminal offense in order to arrest you. However, in these cases, the officer must have reasonable grounds to believe that the defendant committed the crime.
Misdemeanor exceptions in Florida include, but are not limited to:
- Carrying concealed weapons
- Disorderly conduct
- Domestic violence
- Graffiti offenses
- Simple battery
- Theft of personal property
- Trespassing upon public school grounds
- Violation of injunction against domestic violence
Questions About Your Charges? Our Criminal Attorneys Can Help
Even though misdemeanors may not seem very concerning, a conviction for this type of crime can still lead to imprisonment and affect your criminal record. Taking prompt action and calling a defense lawyer when facing criminal charges can improve your chances of having a positive outcome.
If you are facing misdemeanor charges, our Tampa Bay criminal defense attorneys may be able to help. Call (727) 828-3900 today to schedule a free consultation. We will make every effort to protect your rights and your criminal record.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you go to jail for a misdemeanor in Florida?
Misdemeanors in Florida are punishable by up to 1 year of incarceration. This means that if a person is convicted for the crime, he or she may have to serve jail time. However, in some cases, misdemeanor offenders may be able to serve probation, community service, or commit to a diversion program instead of imprisonment.
Can you vote with a misdemeanor in FL?
In Florida, people who have been convicted for a misdemeanor do not lose their voting rights. This means that even if offenders are serving their sentence, they are eligible to vote as long as they have not lost their rights due to a prior felony conviction.
How long does a misdemeanor stay on your record?
A misdemeanor charge in Florida remains permanently on the person’s criminal record unless it is expunged or sealed. There are numerous factors taken into consideration in determining a person’s eligibility for this process.
Should you want to know more about the possibility of having your record sealed or expunged, you should contact a criminal defense attorney.
How long does a misdemeanor case stay open in Florida?
In Florida, a misdemeanor of the first degree must commence within two years from the date the crime took place. Second degree misdemeanors, on the other hand, must be prosecuted within one year from the date of the offense.