A misdemeanor is defined as a "lesser" criminal act while a felony is a more serious criminal offense. In the United States, the major distinction between misdemeanors and felonies is the length of incarceration and the amount of fines attached to the offense. Generally, a crime that is punishable by incarceration for one year or less is a misdemeanor offense, and all other crimes are felonies.
In most states, the standard of measurement is the degree for which the crime affects our society. However, in some cases it comes down to what state you live in. For example, in Colorado possessing 2 to 6 ounces of marijuana is a misdemeanor offense, punishable by 1 year in jail and $1,000 in fines. Now compare that figure to Florida, where
possessing over 20 grams (20 grams = less than 1 ounce) is a felony offense, punishable by 5 years in prison and a $5,000 fine!
Misdemeanor crimes are generally punishable by a maximum term of 12 months, typically in a local jail. In contrast, individuals convicted of felonies are usually incarcerated in a state prison. Those who are convicted of misdemeanors are frequently punished with probation, a short jail term, or community service.
Under Florida Statute §775.082, a person who is convicted of a felony may be punished as follows:
- Life felony – 40 years to life in prison (for crimes committed on or after October 1, 1983)
- First degree felony – Up to 30 years in prison
- Second degree felony – Up to 15 years in prison
- Third degree felony – Up to 5 years in prison
For a first degree misdemeanor, the term of imprisonment does not exceed 1 year, and for a second degree misdemeanor the term of imprisonment does not exceed 60 days.
Under § 921.0022 of the Florida Statues, there are too many felony offenses to list. But, to give a few examples, fleeing and attempting to elude a law enforcement office( without high speed or lights and siren) is a 3rd degree felony, getting in a high speed police chase is a 2nd degree felony, and residential burglary is a 2nd degree felony.
Some examples of misdemeanors in Florida include battery (hitting), disorderly conduct, driving with a suspended license, possessing less than 20 grams of marijuana, and indecent exposure.
In Florida, there are a number of crimes that can be prosecuted as misdemeanors or felonies depending on the facts of the case; for instance, gambling is a misdemeanor, but gambling with a minor is a felony offense. Stealing a dog can be charged as a misdemeanor (under $300), but receiving stolen property is a felony. If you shoplift less than $300 worth of merchandise, it's a misdemeanor; however, if the merchandise is worth over $300, it is elevated to a felony and the punishment changes from up to 60 days in jail to up to 5 years in prison.
Contact a Tampa Criminal Defense Attorney
Florida cracks down hard on those who are facing felony charges. If you have been arrested for a crime, it is definitely in your best interests to be convicted of a misdemeanor instead of a felony, or better yet, it's best to get your charges dismissed altogether if possible, but this can't be done without the help of a Tampa criminal defense lawyer. As a former prosecutor with 24 years of experience, you can turn to Attorney Hessinger to aggressively defend your criminal charges!
Contact The Law Office of Timothy Hessinger today to schedule your free consultation.