Criminal Defense FAQs
Q: What is the difference between misdemeanors and felonies?
A: According to Title 46, Chapter 775 of the Florida Statutes, felonies are defined as crimes that would be generally be punishable by imprisonment in Florida’s state penitentiary for a term in excess of one year, or are punishable by death. Misdemeanors, on the other hand, are generally crimes that are punishable by imprisonment in a county correctional facility for a term not to exceed one year.
Q: I was arrested for a misdemeanor, should I retain a lawyer?
A: Florida divides misdemeanors into two categories–first degree and second degree. Each category carries a different level of punishment, which are as follows:
- Misdemeanors of the first degree: Term of imprisonment not to exceed one year.
- Misdemeanors of the second degree: Term of imprisonment not to exceed 60 days.
In addition to facing the possibility of imprisonment, individuals who are arrested for misdemeanor violations may be fined up to $500 for a misdemeanor of the second degree, or fined up to $1,000 for a misdemeanor of the first degree. Furthermore, if one is convicted for a misdemeanor offense, depending on the type of crime involved, the court may order that restitution be made to the individual who asserts that he or she incurred damage or loss due to the defendant’s conduct. Individuals who have been arrested for a misdemeanor should first consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney, because a misdemeanor conviction may carry severe collateral consequences, such as imprisonment, fines, restitution, or all of the above.
Q: If I do plead guilty, are there any other consequences?
A: Depending on the type of criminal violation involved, the potential penalties could be very severe. Florida has strict driving under the influence (DUI) laws, where a person who is arrested for having a blood alcohol level of .08 and above, and has no prior DUI conviction, can face a term of imprisonment for up to 6 months, a fine from $500 up to about a $1,000, and have his or her driver’s license revoked for at least six months, for a first-time DUI conviction. The penalties increase in severity for second and third-time DUI convictions.
If a person is convicted for a felony drug offense for selling or trafficking drugs, Florida disqualifies the person from applying for a job with a state agency, unless the person completed all sentences of imprisonment or the individual complied with all the conditions of the Department of Corrections, such as enrolling in a drug treatment program.
Other collateral consequences of a misdemeanor or felony conviction include difficulty being hired for certain jobs and potential deportation if the person is not a United States citizen.
An experienced criminal defense lawyer can assist you in several ways, such as explaining the prosecution’s plea offer, the potential consequences of pleading guilty, discussing the strengths and weaknesses of your case, and negotiating with the prosecution on your behalf for a less severe punishment. To consult with experienced criminal defense attorneys who have successfully handled drug, spousal abuse, white collar crime, DUI, and traffic offense cases throughout Florida, contact Meros, Smith, Lazzara, Brennan & Brennan, P.A.