Florida law divides crimes into felonies and misdemeanors. Felonies in Florida are punishable by death or incarceration 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 (2019).)
For more information on misdemeanors in Florida, see Florida Misdemeanor Crimes by Class and Sentences.
Capital and life felonies are the most serious crimes in Florida. Capital felonies are punishable by the death penalty or life in prison without the possibility of parole. 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 (2019).)
Felonies of the first degree in Florida are usually punishable by up to 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. Aggravated battery (intentionally causing great bodily harm) of a law enforcement officer while the officer is engaging in official duties is an example of a felony of the first degree. (Fla. Stat. §§ 775.082, 775.083 (2019).)
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 (2019).) Selling marijuana to a minor is a felony of the second 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. In Florida, theft of an automobile, and trespassing while armed with a weapon are punishable as felonies of the third degree. (Fla. Stat. §§ 775.081, 775.082, 775.083 (2019).)
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 prison term under one of Florida’s recidivist sentencing schemes. Such laws are often referred to as “Three Strikes and You’re Out” laws. (Fla. Stat. § 775.084 (2019).)
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. More serious crimes typically have longer statutes of limitations than less serious crimes. In Florida, capital felonies, life felonies, and felonies that resulted in death have no statutes of limitations. Felonies of the first degree typically have a four-year statute of limitations, while other felonies generally have a limitation period of three years. (Fla. Stat. § 775.15 (2019).)
A felony conviction 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 experienced attorney can help you understand your options and obtain the best possible outcome in your case.