Classification of Misdemeanor Crimes and Their Potential Penalties in Florida
Misdemeanor offenses are less serious than felonies and usually include non-violent offenses and various traffic offenses. They are distinguished from felonies in that the maximum time you can be incarcerated is one year in county jail. Florida has two classifications of misdemeanors, first and second degree.
Although not felonies, misdemeanors are still criminal violations and carry additional consequences for those who are convicted. For example, a DUI conviction usually means loss of your driving privileges for several months on a first offense which is increased substantially with multiple convictions. You can still possess and own firearms, though, and you may still run for public office and apply for or retain a professional license.
Second Degree Misdemeanor
These are the least serious of misdemeanors. A conviction may only result in a maximum county jail sentence of 60 days and/or a fine of no more than $500. Probation may also be imposed for up to 6 months. This means that the sentencing judge may order that you serve 60 days in jail but suspend it for 6 months provided you do not re-offend. If you do, you could serve all or part of the suspended sentence.
Any misdemeanor that does not have a classification is considered one of the second degree. Examples of second degree misdemeanors include:
- First offense petit theft
- DO or disorderly conduct
- Driving with an invalid license
- Criminal mischief if damage is under $200
First Degree Misdemeanor
This degree has the more serious misdemeanor offenses with the possibility of jail time up to one year and/or a fine of no more than $1000. You can also be placed on probation for one year. A sentence may include you serving up to one year in a county jail. First degree misdemeanors include:
- Shoplifting under $300
- Reckless driving
- Possessing less than 20 grams of marijuana
- Second offense petit theft
- Indecent exposure
- Possession of drug paraphernalia
- Spousal Abuse and Domestic Battery
In misdemeanor cases, usually involving drug possession or some first time offenses, the court or judge has the option of withholding adjudication following a guilty plea, plea of nolo contendre or a finding of guilt after a trial. If your conviction is withheld, you must complete any court ordered programs and not re-offend during a certain period, usually at least one year, or the charges will be reinstated and you will be sentenced. In any case in which your conviction was withheld, you may be eligible to have the charges expunged or sealed.
Sentencing for any misdemeanor case may include jail time and a period of probation. If no jail time, the judge may order the defendant to perform community service, pay a fine and restitution to the victim, undertake counseling or participate in a court-approved program for anger management, spousal abuse or drug and alcohol abuse. A DUI conviction is not eligible for a withhold of adjudication.