Misdemeanor Defense Attorney

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The term “felony” and “misdemeanor” refer to categories of a criminal offense.  The primary significance of a crime being categorized as felony or misdemeanor is the extent to which the crime may be punished.

What is a Misdemeanor?

In most states, including Florida, the term “misdemeanor” refers to minor crimes punishable by a jail term of 12 months or less.  The term “felony” is generally understood to be a crime that is punishable by over a year in prison.

Common Misdemeanor Offenses

Common examples of misdemeanors include property crimes such as petty (petit) theft, criminal mischief, and trespass; violent crimes such as simple assault and simple battery; drug crimes such as possession of paraphernalia and possession of cannabis less than 20 grams; domestic crimes such as domestic violence, assault, battery, stalking, and violation of domestic injunctions; traffic crimes such as driving under the influence, driving while license suspended, no valid driver’s license, and reckless driving, and moral crimes such as prostitution, public intoxication, and disorderly conduct.

Florida Criminal Law

The Florida legislature has enacted statutes that supersede court-made common law as to whether a particular offense is deemed a felony or misdemeanor.  Florida law establishes the following guidelines for punishment of a misdemeanor:

1. A second degree misdemeanor is punishable by up to 60 days in jail, 6 months of probation, and a $500 fine.

2. A first degree misdemeanor is punishable by up to 1 year in jail, 1 year of probation, and a $1,000 fine.

Classification

The Florida legislature’s classification of a crime as a felony or misdemeanor is not without logic, but can be subjective.  For example, the illegal manufacture, distribution or possession of controlled substances may be a felony, although possession of smaller amounts may be only a misdemeanor.  Possession of a deadly weapon may be generally legal, but carrying the same weapon into a restricted area such as a school may be deemed to be a misdemeanor, or even a felony.  Driving under the influence, driving while license suspended, battery, and prostitution may be misdemeanors if a first offense, but subsequent convictions may constitute felonies.

Aggravating Factors Relating to the Crime

Aggravating circumstances involved in the crime itself can result in re-classification of an offense from a misdemeanor to a felony.  For example, battery is normally a misdemeanor of the first degree, however, a battery on a law enforcement officer is a felony of the third degree.  Other aggravating circumstances that can raise a misdemeanor offense to a felony offense, or increase the severity of a felony, include factors like the use of a mask, gun, or other weapon in the commission of a crime, or if the assault or battery involves a school employee or elderly person.

Collateral Consequences

You should be aware of collateral consequences that could result from a criminal conviction, other than what are included in the sentence imposed by the court.  Depending on the crime, collateral consequences of a criminal conviction may include:

  • Suspension of driver’s license
  • Exclusion from purchase and possession of firearms, ammunition, and body armor
  • Exclusion from obtaining professional or occupational business licenses
  • Ineligibility for government assistance and federally funded housing
  • Ineligibility for serving on a jury
  • Ineligibility to vote
  • Ineligibility for public office
  • Deportation (if the person is not a citizen)
  • Civil commitment under the Jimmy Ryce Act

Job applications and rental applications frequently ask about criminal history.  Answering dishonestly can be grounds for rejecting the application, or termination if the lie is discovered after hire.   Landlords will often not rent to persons convicted of a crime due to the risk of legal liability if the renter commits another crime.  Many banks will refuse service to convicted felons.  In many states, it is perfectly legal to discriminate against persons convicted of a crime in hiring, rental, and credit decisions.  As a result, a criminal conviction can present a significant barrier to getting a job, housing, and credit.

Call DeVoe Law Firm

Get an experienced attorney to help you with your misdemeanor charge.  Call DeVoe Law Firm to ask about representation in your misdemeanor case.

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