How are misdemeanors different from felonies?
Crimes are generally broken down into two main categories: misdemeanors and felonies. Misdemeanors are less serious offenses that are punishable by up to one year in jail along with fines. Felonies are punishable by over one year in prison, and can also be accompanied by fines and probation. Many commonly charged offenses in the state of Florida can be misdemeanors, including assault, battery, first time DUI, marijuana possession, shoplifting, and trespassing. Although misdemeanors are less serious offenses than felonies, it is still crucial that you defend against these charges as they can lead to jail time and a permanent criminal record.
Misdemeanor Penalties in Florida
Per Florida law, misdemeanors can be classified as either first degree or second degree. A first degree misdemeanor can be punished by up to one year in the county jail and fines of up to $1,000, along with probation. A second degree misdemeanor is punishable by up to 60 days in jail and fines of $500, along with possible probation. Crimes are classified as either first or second degree misdemeanors based on their severity. Aggravating factors for a second degree misdemeanor could heighten the crime to a first degree misdemeanor, while misdemeanors can potentially become felonies under some circumstances.
Just like felonies, a misdemeanor conviction will become a part of your permanent criminal record. Your record can be accessed by potential employers, lenders, educational institutions, and others. A misdemeanor record could also serve to heighten your penalties for commission of a later crime.
Defenses Against Misdemeanors
Your best defense against the misdemeanor charges you face will depend on the exact circumstances surrounding the alleged crime. Potential defenses against misdemeanor charges include self-defense, mistaken identity, lack of criminal intent, coercion, or necessity. Your criminal defense lawyer will review the facts surrounding your charge to develop your strongest defense.
The Importance of a Criminal Defense Lawyer
Some people think of misdemeanors as minor crimes that they can simply plead guilty to and move on. This attitude can lead to tremendous problems for the unsuspecting client. Though you are not facing many years in prison with a misdemeanor, it is crucial that you defend against them to ensure you do not end up in jail or unfairly sentenced. Any period of incarceration or probation, can negatively impact your job, family, and mental wellbeing. Be sure to contact a criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible during a criminal investigation or after your arrest to protect your legal rights.