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Criminal Records In Florida – A Primer

by | Aug 2, 2023 | Criminal Law

A conviction in Florida is a life-altering event. But just how far do the ramifications of being convicted of a crime in Florida really go? This article will delve into the effect a criminal conviction has upon an individual in Florida and what you need to know if you are convicted of a crime in the Sunshine State.

Basics

In general, Florida law recognizes three levels of criminal charges, namely

  • Infraction,
  • Misdemeanor, and
  • Felony.

An infraction is the least serious category of crime in Florida. These include traffic violations and are usually only punishable by a small fine. Infractions may be challenged in court, but defendants aren’t entitled to a jury trial or to a public defender at trial.

More serious than an infraction is a misdemeanor. Florida recognizes two degrees of misdemeanor, both of which are punishable by no more than a year in jail. Misdemeanors are generally minor crimes that typically don’t involve a high degree of violence.

The most serious class of crime in Florida is a felony. There are four classes of felony in Florida, and the penalties range from one year in prison to capital punishment. Felonies frequently involve violence, sexual assault, or stealing large amounts of money.

Third degree felonies are the least serious felonies in Florida. This class of felonies is punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.

Second degree felonies are more serious than first degree felonies. Second degree felonies are punishable by up to 15 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

First degree felonies are more serious still. These felonies are punishable by up to 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

Capital and life felonies are the most serious crimes in Florida. Punishment for capital felonies is the death penalty, while punishment for life felonies is life in prison with no chance of parole.

Sealed and Expunged Records

Florida law allows for one’s criminal record to be sealed or expunged. These are somewhat similar but have very important distinctions.

A sealed record means that a charge on one’s criminal record cannot be viewed by the general public. Also the charge will not be visible to private employers or other private entities who run a background check on that individual. However, government agencies will still have access to those records.

An expunged record means that the charge cannot be viewed by either private individuals and entities and government entities. Government agencies may gain access to an expunged record, but only with a court order in hand.

Common to both sealed and expunged records is that a person is not eligible for either if they have been convicted of any other crimes.

In Florida, an individual may petition a court to seal or expunge his or her records. The process is complex, and it’s best handled by an attorney licensed in Florida. However, Florida law does not allow for the sealing or expunging the record of any kind of felony. A felony conviction remains on a person’s record for life.

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