Law Office Of William B Bennett, St. Petersburg, FL, How Crimes Are Classified In Florida

Understanding the potential penalties for a criminal charge is critical when facing prosecution in Florida. There are misdemeanors and felonies. Plus, there are also different degrees of each. When facing a criminal charge, it is important to know how crimes are classified and what those distinctions mean. While any conviction carries consequences, the specific penalties vary based on the nature and classification of the offense. Additionally, there are indirect impacts a conviction can have beyond fines and incarceration. Consulting with an experienced criminal defense attorney is key to understanding your options and the stakes involved in your case.

How Crimes Are Classified According To Florida Law

Crimes in Florida are classified as either misdemeanors or felonies, depending on their severity. Generally speaking, misdemeanors are less serious offenses punishable by up to 1 year in county jail and/or a fine up to $1,000. Felonies are more serious crimes punishable by over 1 year of incarceration. The state categorizes felonies from third-degree to capital, in descending order of severity.


There are two degrees of misdemeanors in Florida. Second-degree misdemeanors carry a maximum of 60 days in jail and a $500 fine. First-degree misdemeanors carry a maximum punishment of 1 year in jail and a $1,000 fine. Some examples of misdemeanor crimes can include:


Felonies in Florida have five different classifications. Third-degree felonies are punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a $5,000 fine. Second-degree felonies carry up to 15 years and a $10,000 fine. First-degree felonies are punishable by up to 30 years and a $10,000 fine. Some examples can include:

  • Aggravated assault
  • Sexual battery
  • Burglary
  • Grand theft auto
  • Selling or trafficking in controlled substances.
  • Aggravated battery
  • Arson
  • Trafficking in controlled substances over 10 grams.
  • Armed robbery
  • Aggravated battery on a law enforcement officer
  • Perjury
  • Witness tampering

Crimes such as murder or rape may fall under the classification of life felonies and capital felonies. These may carry a punishment of life in prison or the death penalty.

Misdemeanor Penalties Under Florida Law

We often see clients facing misdemeanor charges. These are less serious offenses than felonies, but can still carry harsh penalties if convicted. In Florida, Misdemeanors Are Classified Into Two Levels.

First Degree Misdemeanors

First-degree misdemeanors are punishable by up to a year in county jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000. Examples of first-degree misdemeanors include petty theft, simple assault, disorderly conduct, and driving on a suspended license.

Second Degree Misdemeanors

Second-degree misdemeanors carry a maximum penalty of 60 days in jail and/or a $500 fine. These include offenses such as shoplifting, reckless driving, and loitering.

The specific penalties imposed depend on factors like the nature of the offense and the defendant’s criminal history. For a first offense, the court may opt for probation, community service, or a diversion program instead of jail time. However, repeat or aggravated offenses are likely to warrant harsher punishment.

If you face misdemeanor charges in Pinellas County or elsewhere in Florida, consulting an experienced criminal defense attorney is critical. We can review the details of your case, determine the best defense strategies, and work to negotiate the least punitive outcome possible. Our goal is always to protect our clients’ rights and help them move forward from these difficult situations.

What Are Some Specific Examples of Crimes That Are Considered Misdemeanors?

We understand that facing any criminal charge can be an stressful experience. Under Florida law, crimes are classified as either misdemeanors or felonies depending on their severity. Misdemeanors are less serious offenses that are punishable by up to one year in county jail and/or monetary fines. Some common examples of misdemeanors include petty theft, simple assault, disorderly conduct, public intoxication, reckless driving, and trespassing.

Petty Theft

Petty theft involves stealing property valued at less than $300. It is punishable by up to one year in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000. Multiple petty theft convictions can lead to increased penalties.

Simple Assault

Simple assault refers to physically threatening someone or intentionally causing minor bodily harm. It carries penalties of up to one year in jail and/or a $1,000 fine. The penalties increase for assault against law enforcement officers or emergency responders.

Public Intoxication

Public intoxication, also known as drunk and disorderly conduct, refers to excessive intoxication in public. It is punishable by up to six months in jail and/or a $500 fine. While typically a misdemeanor, repeat offenses or intoxication that endangers others can lead to felony charges.

As with any criminal charge, a misdemeanor conviction results in a criminal record that must be disclosed to employers, landlords, and others. While misdemeanors are less serious than felonies, they should not be taken lightly. The penalties and collateral consequences can be significant. If charged with a misdemeanor in Florida, it is advisable to consult an experienced attorney specializing in criminal defense law.

Felony Charges and Their Severity in Florida

It is crucial for defendants to comprehend the severity of the charges they are facing. In Florida, felonies are classified into five categories according to their severity: third-degree, second-degree and first-degree felonies, as well as, capital and life felonies.

Third-Degree Felonies

Third-degree felonies are the least severe type of felony in Florida, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t serious. Conviction of a third-degree felony can result in up to five years of imprisonment and/or up to $5,000 in fines. Examples of third-degree felonies include grand theft, possession of burglary tools and neglect of a child.

Second-Degree Felonies

Second-degree felonies are more serious than third-degree felonies and can warrant up to 15 years of imprisonment and/or up to $10,000 in fines upon conviction. Common second-degree felonies include aggravated assault, battery on a law enforcement officer and burglary of an unoccupied dwelling.

First-Degree Felonies

First-degree felonies are one of the most serious type of felony in Florida. Conviction of a first-degree felony can lead to up to 30 years or even life imprisonment without parole, depending on the offense. First-degree felonies encompass dangerous crimes like kidnapping, robbery and trafficking controlled substances.

Life Felonies

Life felonies are punishable by up to life in prison. Offenses in this category can include armed robbery, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, rape and trafficking large amounts of illegal drugs.

Capital Felonies

Capital felonies are the most serious criminal offenses, punishable by death or life imprisonment without parole. These include premeditated murder, felony murder, and killing a law enforcement officer.

In addition to imprisonment and fines, a felony conviction in Florida can have other consequences like loss of civil rights, damage to reputation, deportation for non-citizens, and challenges in gaining employment. The repercussions of a felony conviction are long-lasting, which is why we always advise our clients to understand the details and severity of the charges they face. Consulting an experienced criminal defense lawyer is critical to mitigating consequences and achieving the best possible outcome.

How Crimes Are Classified Can Have Indirect Impacts

In addition to jail and prison time, a conviction can often result in heavy fines, a criminal record, loss of certain civil rights and a social stigma that can negatively impact employment, education, housing, travel and relationships. The Law Office of William B. Bennett has successfully defended clients against a wide range of criminal classifications in order to help avoid or minimize these consequences. We understand the complexities of Florida’s legal classification system and sentencing guidelines and are here to help.

How Crimes Are Classified Can Impact Your Case—Call The Law Office Office Of William B. Bennett Today For Help

Crimes in Florida are classified as either misdemeanors or felonies, with felonies obviously carrying more severe penalties. While a misdemeanor conviction may result in fines or probation, felony convictions can lead to years or life in prison. The indirect consequences are also important to consider, as any conviction may negatively impact future employment, housing, or finances. For defendants worried about the charges against them, call the Law Office of William B. Bennett at (727) 821-8000 or contact us on the website for a free consultation. Speaking with an experienced local criminal defense attorney is the best way to understand the options. Though daunting, remember that the justice system provides opportunities to reduce or dismiss charges through effective legal advocacy.

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