Felonies are the most serious offenses someone can be charged with in Florida. The state has five categories of felonies, distinct in the severity of the crimes classified under them. Regardless of a violation’s designation, the potential penalties for a conviction are severe and can include anywhere from a maximum of 5 years in prison to life without parole or death. Fighting a felony charge is possible, but it’s not something someone should try on their own. A better course of action would be to retain the services of a criminal defense lawyer.
What Are Felonies (Versus Misdemeanors) in Florida?
In Florida, offenses can be categorized as felonies or misdemeanors. Felonies are the more serious violations and carry significantly harsher punishments.
Specifically, felonies can range from up to 5 years in prison to the death penalty. Aside from incarceration, those convicted could also face a maximum fine ranging from $5,000 to $15,000.
In contrast, the highest degree of a misdemeanor (first-degree) carries a jail term, not a prison term, of up to 1 year. The maximum fine for these offenses is $1,000.
How Many Degrees of Felonies Does Florida Have?
Florida divides felonies into 5 classifications: capital felony, life felony, first-degree felony, second-degree felony, and third-degree felony. The groups are distinct in the types of crimes categorized under them. The capital felony designation is reserved for the most serious offenses, whereas the third-degree designation is for the least serious (though these are still severe crimes).
Most of Florida’s statutes will specify the classification of felony a crime falls under. However, if the category is not specifically stated, the offense will be considered a third-degree felony.
What Are Some Examples of Felonies?
Various crimes are considered felonies in Florida. Generally, these are violations resulting in serious harm to others, whether that be bodily injury or property damage/loss.
Below are examples of offenses classified as felonies:
- Capital: First-degree murder, which is the unlawful killing of another through premeditation or under specific circumstances.
- Life: Sexual battery when the sexual conduct was engaged in by someone 18 years of age or older against a child under 12 years of age.
- First-degree: Armed robbery, which involves taking another person’s property while carrying a firearm or deadly weapon.
- Second-degree: Aggravated battery, which occurs when an individual touches or strikes someone else and causes great bodily injury or uses a deadly weapon.
- Third-degree: Burglary when the alleged offender entered a dwelling or structure intending to commit an offense but did not harm any other person or was not armed.
How Do the Degrees of Felonies Impact Sentencing?
The severity of a criminal sentence depends mainly on the classification of a felony. The more serious the offense, the higher the classification, and the more severe the punishment. Third-degree felonies are the lowest group, and capital are the highest. Thus, the term of imprisonment and fine amount will be lesser at the third-degree classification and increase with each step up.
The potential penalties include the following:
- Third-degree: Up to 5 years in prison and/or up to $5,000 in fines.
- Second-degree: Up to 15 years in prison and/or up to $10,000 in fines.
- First-degree: Up to 30 years in prison and/or up to $10,000 in fines.
- Life: Up to life in prison and/or up to $15,000 in fines.
- Capital: Up to life in prison without parole or death.
The terms listed above represent the maximum terms of confinement and fines. A judge may impose punishments within the statutorily allowed ranges, with the exact penalties varying depending on factors such as the defendant’s criminal history.
Are Defenses Available for Someone Charged with a Felony?
If someone is charged with a felony, it does not mean that they do not have legal defenses. Various arguments may be raised to combat the allegations depending on the circumstances.
Crafting a compelling defense requires examining the incident from all angles and conducting a thorough review and analysis of the evidence. The evaluation can help determine the appropriate strategies for mounting a convincing argument in court.
Thus, even those facing the harshest sentences can seek to avoid or minimize penalties.
How Can an Attorney Help After Being Charged with a Felony?
Being charged with a felony can be terrifying. With the potential of facing several years in prison and the stigma of having a criminal record, retaining legal representation is crucial. An experienced criminal defense lawyer can provide advice and guidance throughout the process and ensure that their client’s rights are protected. They can also gather evidence, build a legal strategy, and negotiate plea deals or present arguments in court.
If you have been charged with a felony in Miami, reach out to Hager & Schwartz, P.A. to discuss your case. Call (305) 330-1360 or contact us online today.