Florida law divides crimes into felonies and misdemeanors. Felonies in Florida are punishable by death or imprisonment in state prison and classified as capital or life felonies; or felonies of the first, second, or third degree. Misdemeanors are less serious crimes, punishable by up to one year in county jail. (Fla. Stat. §§ 775.08, 775.081.)
For more information on misdemeanors in Florida, see Florida Misdemeanor Crimes by Class and Sentences.
Capital or Life Felonies
Capital and life felonies are the most serious crimes in Florida. Capital felonies are punishable by the death penalty. First degree murder is an example of a capital felony. Life felonies are punishable by life imprisonment and a fine of up to $15,000. (Fla. Stat. §§ 775.082, 775.083.)
Felonies of the First Degree
First degree felonies in Florida are usually punishable by up to 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. (Fla. Stat. §§ 775.082, 775.083.) Aggravated battery (intentionally causing great bodily harm) to a law enforcement officer while the officer is engaging in official duties is an example of a felony of the first degree.
Felonies of the Second Degree
A conviction for a felony of the second degree can result in a prison term of up to 15 years and a fine of not more than $10,000. (Fla. Stat. §§ 775.082, 775.083.) Selling marijuana to a minor is a second degree felony.
For more information on this crime, see Florida Marijuana Laws.
Felonies of the Third Degree
Felonies of the third degree are the least serious types of felonies in Florida, punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000. If lawmakers fail to designate the punishment for or degree of a felony, then the crime is punishable as a third degree felony. (Fla. Stat. §§ 775.081, 775.082, 775.083.) In Florida, theft of an automobile is punishable as a felony of the third degree.
For more information on theft penalties, see Florida Petty Theft and Other Theft Laws.
Prior Felony Convictions
People in Florida who have previously been convicted of two or more felonies and are convicted of yet another felony may be sentenced to a lengthy term under one of Florida’s recidivist sentencing schemes. (Fla. Stat. § 775.084.)
For more information, see Three Strikes and You're Out.
Statute of Limitations
For most crimes, the state must begin criminal prosecution within a set period of time, called the statute of limitations. The statute of limitations begins to “run” when the defendant commits the crime. In Florida, more serious crimes have longer statutes of limitations. The most serious crimes have no statutes of limitations.
For more information, see Florida Criminal Statute of Limitations.
Obtaining Legal Assistance
Being convicted of a felony can have severe consequences. In addition to imprisonment, a felony criminal record can make it hard to obtain a job or a promotion, qualify for certain government benefits, go to school, run for office, buy a gun, or volunteer. If you are charged with a felony in Florida, you should talk to a local criminal defense attorney about your case. An attorney can help you understand your options and obtain the best possible outcome in your case.