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A Guide to the Different Classes of Felonies in Florida

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Facing felony charges is everyone’s worst nightmare. Not only are you likely shaken up by the arrest, but now you’re wondering how long this mistake (or wrongful accusation) may affect your life. If this sounds like you, then you need a felony lawyer. They can help you understand your charges, create a plan of action, and hopefully get you a win in court. To start learning about the classes of felonies a criminal lawyer works with, read below.

A misdemeanor may have jail time, but it’s for a year or less. First-degree charges are 12 months or less, and second degree is six months or less. Common misdemeanors in Florida include petty theft, disorderly conduct, and driving without a license.

Many job applications ask if you’ve ever been guilty of a felony, leaving misdemeanors out of the conversation entirely. But what is a felony?

The Classes of Felonies

If you’re arrested and tried for a felony, it’s a more serious crime than a misdemeanor. Depending on the state (more later), you can be tried and given the maximum punishment, as defined by the law. That maximum penalty can be anywhere from years to life in prison, and even the death penalty.

That’s one reason it’s so important to have a great criminal defense attorney: they can help reduce your sentencing from the maximum to something more reasonable.

Not every felony is eligible for life in prison or worse. The penalty depends on what type of offense it is. Florida has five types of felonies, which we’re detailing from highest offense to lowest below.

Capital Felonies: The Highest Offense

The “worst” or highest form of a felony in the state of Florida is the Capital Felony. This rank includes murder, armed kidnapping, high-stakes, high-volume drug trafficking, and other severe crimes. If you’re charged with a capital felony, you’re looking at the possibility of life in prison without parole.

Florida does allow the death penalty for these crimes, which you can learn more about online.

In court, your criminal lawyer will work to get you the best option possible and may argue your crime down to a lower charge (like a life felony). Going to court for a capital felony without a lawyer is literally as serious as life and death.

Life Felony

Speaking of life, the next level “down” is the “life felony.” These are still violent crimes, but they’re viewed as less severe than the charges above. Life felony examples include kidnapping, being involved in a murder, unpremeditated murder, using a weapon of mass destruction, and robbery with a deadly weapon.

In the state of Florida, the maximum penalty for this charge is life in prison. The minimum charge is forty years unless your lawyer otherwise argues it down. The defendant will have to pay a range of fines on top of their legal and court fees.

In some cases, the court can “convert” multiple first-degree felonies into a life felony charge, making the punishment more severe. It is not legal to pursue the death penalty for life felonies in Florida.

First Degree Felony

The name of this felony type is confusing. You would think that a “first-degree felony” would be the highest charge there is, but as we’ve seen above, it’s not.

While life and capital felonies can include life in prison, these charges are punishable by no more than thirty years. Some defendants may get the option of potential time off for good behavior, depending on the nature of the charge.

Thirty years is better than life in prison, but it’s still a long time. The right lawyer can help you bring your charges down.

Some examples of first-degree felonies include armed robbery, carjacking, prescription forgery, homicide charges, and fleeing the scene of an accident where there are fatalities.

If someone was injured, the defendant might have to pay the victim restitution, as well as court-mandated fines.

Second Degree Felony

The class below a first-degree felony, a felony in the second degree is punishable by fifteen years (max) in state prison. The defendant may still have to pay restitution to the involved parties, along with court fees and fines. In the state of Florida, second-degree felony fines are capped at $10,000 (which is still a lot of money).

Unfortunately, Florida experiences a high number of DUIs. DUIs, including manslaughter (someone was killed), are a common second-degree felony charge. Other examples include aggravated battery, child abuse, intent to sell controlled substances, and sexual battery (non-consensual sexual contact without penetration).

Third Degree Felonies

Finally, third-degree felonies are the “lowest” level of felony charges. They include a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a fine of up to five thousand dollars. Charges include assaulting a police officer, forgery, multiple DUIs, robberies without weapons, and large-scale drug possession.

While these are the least severe felony charge, that doesn’t mean they’re not something to take seriously. No one should ever face felony charges without an experienced lawyer, like the ones on staff at our firm.

In fact, our criminal defense law firm has decades of combined experience, which helps us help our clients.

Where to Find a Great Criminal Defense Lawyer in Florida

If you’re in the Tampa metro area, our Clearwater Criminal Attorney firm is here to help. We have five different locations in the bay area, each with a staff of highly-experienced and successful defense attorneys.

Our lawyers can help you understand the different classes of felonies, what the maximum punishment of your crime is, and what they think is possible with a well-argued legal case.

Our offices are available to take calls 24/7, because we know that crime doesn’t have business hours.

If you’re facing felony charges, we’ll be right next to you every step of the way. Call us to get help with your case, today!

Hanlon Law
600 Cleveland St #1100
Clearwater, FL 33755
(727) 897-5413

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