What Is Considered a Felony In Florida?

The state criminal justice system is complex. If you are arrested on charges in Florida, they will either be felonies or misdemeanors. Felonies are more severe and typically come with significant penalties and consequences if you are found guilty.

What is a Felony in Florida?

There are specific Florida felony laws that detail what is considered a felony in the state, including a breakdown of the degrees of the crime and potential penalties.

Florida Felony Laws

Florida felony laws recognize certain unlawful acts as serious crimes. These can come with penalties of life in prison, high fines, and even the death penalty. The circumstances of the individual case will determine the felony charges in Florida.

Felonies in Florida include five classifications:

  1. capital,
  2. life,
  3. first-degree felony,
  4. second-degree felony, and
  5. third-degree felony.

Degrees of Felonies in Florida

The question, “What is a felony in Florida?” has many answers. One of the most important things to know is the degrees of felonies. The degree will determine the types of penalties an individual could face if convicted. The higher the degree – the more severe the penalties.

Capital Felonies — An example of a capital felony is first-degree murder.

Life Felonies — These can include crimes such as aggravated sexual assault.

First-degree Felonies — An example of a first-degree felony is aggravated assault of a police officer while that officer is on duty, which is the most severe degree after capital and life felonies.

These top three are related to profoundly serious crimes. Second and third-degree felonies are serious as well, and all require legal representation from a criminal defense attorney.

What is a second-degree felony in Florida?

Second-degree Felonies — A drug offense such as selling marijuana to a minor would be an example of a second-degree felony in Florida.

What is a 3rd-degree felony in Florida?

Third-degree Felonies —Examples of third-degree felonies in Florida include grand theft, felony battery, and a third-time DUI, which took place within ten years of a prior DUI conviction.

Types of Crimes that Constitute a Felony Charge

There are multiple types of crimes that constitute a felony charge in Florida, such as:

  • Murder
  • Rape and other sex crimes
  • Aggravated Battery & Aggravated Assault
  • Child Abuse
  • Incest
  • Domestic Violence
  • Stalking
  • Burglary
  • Grand theft
  • Kidnapping
  • Battery on a law enforcement officer or firefighter
  • Resisting a law enforcement officer using violence
  • Possession of a controlled substance (not including marijuana under 20 grams)
  • Drug trafficking
  • Robbery
  • Carrying a concealed firearm
  • Human Trafficking
  • Arson
  • Fraudulent Practices (such as fraud involving large sums of money or property)
  • Illegal Sale or Possession of Firearms
  • Sexual Battery
  • Home Invasion
  • Forgery of Official Documents
  • Money Laundering

Individuals charged with crimes, whether a felony or a misdemeanor, have the right to an attorney and are highly advised to seek legal counsel.

Felony vs. Misdemeanor: What’s the Difference?

Misdemeanors are considered less serious crimes by the criminal justice system in Florida, typically associated with reduced penalties, including lesser fines and jail time.

Like felonies, misdemeanors have classifications: first-degree and second-degree.

First-degree Misdemeanors — punishable by up to one year in jail and/or up to 12 months of probation and a fine up to $1,000.

Second-degree Misdemeanors — punishable by up to 60 days in jail and/or up to six months of probation and up to a $500 fine.

Misdemeanors, such as a DUI, can also come with vehicle impoundment, DUI school, ignition interlock device, and driver’s license suspension, among other penalties.

Examples of misdemeanors in Florida include DUI, driving with a suspended license, battery, possession of drug paraphernalia, vandalism, and shoplifting.

Penalties for Felonies in Florida

If you are facing felony charges in Florida, you could be subject to various penalties, depending on the degree and circumstances.

Capital and life felonies are the most serious crimes in the state.

Capital Felonies — punishable by life in prison without the possibility of parole or the death penalty.

Life Felonies — punishable by life in prison and a fine of up to $15,000.

First-degree Felonies — punishable by up to thirty years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

Second-degree Felonies — punishable by up to fifteen years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

Third-degree Felonies — punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.

Both felony and misdemeanor penalties can also include probation.

Statutes of Limitations

Statutes of limitations, the period of time allowed for the state to begin prosecution of a case, starts when the crime is committed. This period will differ depending upon the severity of the felony charges in Florida.

Capital and Life Felonies & Felonies that resulted in death — no statute of limitations

First-degree Felonies — standardly have a four-year statute of limitations

Other Felonies — typically have a three-year statute of limitations

Consequences of a Felony Arrest

There can be a variety of consequences associated with a felony arrest, producing a major impact on your life not only for the immediate future but for a very long time — potentially for the rest of your life.

If you are convicted, this includes prison, hefty fines, and probation, as listed above. But there are also many other consequences of a felony arrest that can occur. It can be challenging to obtain a student loan for education, get a job, or obtain a professional license — placing your ability to make a living and your financial future in jeopardy.

A felony arrest can also impact your living conditions, making it difficult to rent or buy a home. Additionally, you may be prevented from voting or owning a gun.

The consequences of a felony arrest can be far-reaching in your personal and professional life and can severely impact your quality of life for many, many years.

Can Felonies be Removed From Your Record in Florida?

The possibility of removing a felony from your record in Florida, commonly referred to as “expungement” or “sealing,” is a topic of significant concern for individuals who have been convicted of felonies. The process and eligibility criteria for expunging or sealing a criminal record in Florida are governed by specific legal statutes, and understanding these can provide clarity and hope for those looking to clear their names and move forward with their lives.

Expungement vs. Sealing

  • Expungement: When a record is expunged in Florida, it is effectively destroyed or obliterated, making it inaccessible to the general public. Certain government or related entities may still have limited access under specific legal circumstances.
  • Sealing: Sealing a record means that it is hidden from public view, but not destroyed. The record exists but cannot be accessed without a court order. Like expungement, access is limited to certain entities under specific conditions.

Eligibility Criteria

The eligibility for expungement or sealing of a felony record in Florida is subject to strict criteria:

  • The crime must not be a disqualifiable offense. Florida law lists specific offenses that cannot be sealed or expunged, including, but not limited to, sexual offenses, child abuse, and certain violent crimes.
  • The individual must not have been adjudicated guilty of the offense they are seeking to seal or expunge, as well as any other criminal offenses in Florida or any other jurisdiction.
  • The individual must have completed all sentences, probation, and have paid all fines or restitution associated with the conviction.
  • There is a mandatory waiting period before applying for expungement or sealing, typically five years after completing all legal obligations, including probation.
  • The individual must not have had a record sealed or expunged previously in Florida or any other state.

The Process

  1. Determine Eligibility: The first step is to consult with a legal professional to determine if your felony conviction is eligible for expungement or sealing under Florida law.
  2. Certificate of Eligibility: If eligible, you must apply for a Certificate of Eligibility from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE). This involves submitting fingerprints, a completed application, and a processing fee.
  3. Petition the Court: Once you receive the Certificate of Eligibility, you must file a petition with the court that handled your case, requesting the expungement or sealing of your record. This petition includes the Certificate of Eligibility and a sworn statement that you meet all the requirements for expungement or sealing.
  4. Court Review: The court will review your petition, and a hearing may be scheduled. If the judge approves your petition, an order will be issued to expunge or seal your record.

FAQs on Felony Charges in Florida

Let’s now break down some common FAQs on what is considered a felony in Florida and related questions.

Can a Felony Charge Be Reduced to a Misdemeanor?

Yes, a felony charge can sometimes be reduced to a misdemeanor through a process known as “plea bargaining,” where the defendant agrees to plead guilty to a lesser charge. This process typically requires negotiation between the defense attorney and the prosecutor and may depend on various factors, including the nature of the crime, the defendant’s criminal history, and evidence available. Reduction might also occur if the judge finds the evidence insufficient to support a felony conviction but adequate for a misdemeanor.

What Is the Difference Between a State and Federal Felony?

The main difference between a state and federal felony lies in the jurisdiction that prosecutes the crime. State felonies are violations of state laws and are prosecuted by state prosecutors in state courts. Federal felonies are violations of federal laws and are prosecuted by the federal government in federal courts. Federal felonies often involve crimes that cross state lines, federal property, or are offenses against the United States.

How Does Florida Handle Felony Charges for Juveniles?

Florida handles juvenile felony charges through its juvenile justice system, which emphasizes rehabilitation over punishment. Juveniles charged with felonies may be eligible for diversion programs, which can include community service, counseling, or other rehabilitative services. However, in cases involving severe offenses, a juvenile may be charged as an adult, subjecting them to the same penalties as adult offenders, including imprisonment.

What Are the Bail and Bond Options for Someone Facing a Felony?

Bail and bond options vary depending on the severity of the felony charge, the defendant’s criminal history, and the perceived flight risk. For less severe felonies, a judge may set a monetary bail amount that can be paid directly or through a bail bond agent, allowing for the defendant’s release from custody while awaiting trial. In more serious cases, bail might be denied, or conditions such as house arrest or electronic monitoring may be imposed instead.

Can I Vote if I Have Been Convicted of a Felony in Florida?

Yes, but with some conditions. Florida’s laws regarding the voting rights of individuals with felony convictions have evolved. As of the latest updates, most individuals convicted of felonies in Florida can have their voting rights restored upon completion of their sentences, including parole or probation. However, this does not apply to convictions for murder or sexual offenses, which require additional steps for rights restoration. It’s important to verify your eligibility and complete any necessary application process to have your rights restored.

What to Do If Facing Felony Charges in Florida

If you face felony charges in Florida, contact a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Due to the severity of the potential penalties and consequences associated with these types of charges, having a lawyer on your side is critical to getting the best outcome possible in your case.

Dean Tsourakis is dedicated to justice and has helped thousands of individuals throughout his career. You should not face felony charges on your own.

It is important to get representation quickly. Take action to make sure you have the right Clearwater Criminal Defense Attorney.

Contact the law office of Dean Tsourakis today at 727-785-2700 to schedule a free, confidential consultation.