Not all crimes in Florida are the same. As the range of law violations span from parking tickets to murder, so too is the range of their severity and the repercussions they have upon a conviction. Following is a discussion of the various categories of crimes and what you need to know about them if you are facing criminal prosecution in Florida.
Crimes in Florida are broadly categorized into three groups: infractions, misdemeanors and felonies. Within those categories, crimes are broken down by degrees, and the degree of a particular crime determines the range of possible penalties.
An infraction is the lowest level of severity of crime in Florida. Typically an infraction is prosecuted by way of a written ticket by law enforcement. Most infractions have to do with traffic violations, such as speeding, running a red light, not wearing a seat belt, and so on. Parking tickets also fall under the category of an infraction.
Although federal law defines an infraction as a crime with a penalty of not more than five days, very few infractions result in incarceration. Typically the penalty for an infraction is a fine, and infractions are not usually reported in a person’s criminal background. Though the penalty for an infraction by itself is generally only a fine, failure to pay the fine is likely to lead to jail time.
The next more serious category of crimes is that of misdemeanor. Crimes like petty theft, simple assault, public intoxication, trespass, vandalism, and possession of small amounts of some drugs are classified as misdemeanors. One definition of a misdemeanor is a crime between an infraction and a felony, pointing out the relative seriousness of the act that the state views it in.
Generally, a misdemeanor is punishable by less than a year in jail and a fine of less than $1,000. Within that classification, Florida has two degrees, that of misdemeanor of the first degree and misdemeanor of the second degree.
A first-degree misdemeanor is punishable by a term in jail of one year and a fine of up to $1,000. A second-degree misdemeanor is punishable by a sentence of 60 days or less in jail and a fine of $500 or less.
The most serious classification of crime in Florida is felonies. Murder, manslaughter, arson, fraud, rape, kidnapping, perjury, and sexual assault are a few of the crimes in Florida that are classified as felonies.
In Florida, felonies are further divided into five groups, namely capital felonies, life felonies, felonies of the first degree, felonies of the second degree, and felonies of the third degree. Those categories allow for penalties ranging from one year in prison to the death penalty.
Capital felonies are the most serious felonies in Florida. First-degree murder is a capital felony, and it carries with it a sentence of either life in prison without the possibility of parole or the death penalty.
Life felonies are less serious than capital felonies and include kidnapping of a child under 13, human trafficking, and sexual battery on a child younger than 12 that causes serious injury. A life felony carries with it a sentence of life in prison and a fine of up to $15,000.
Felonies of the first degree are next in severity, and they include crimes like burglary with assault and battery and carjacking. A sentence for a first-degree felony conviction is up to 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
Felonies of the second degree are next, and include vehicular homicide and extortion, among others. The sentence for a second-degree felony is a prison sentence of up to 15 years and a fine of up to $10,000.
Felonies of the third degree are the least serious felonies, and they include trespass while armed and theft of a vehicle, among others. The penalty for third-degree felonies is a prison sentence of up to five years and a fine of up to $5,000.