Differences between Felonies and Misdemeanors in Florida

- Keith Bregoff

In criminal cases, people often talk about felonies and misdemeanors. When people talk about felonies and misdemeanors, they are talking about two categories of crimes. In general, a misdemeanor is a crime that is considered to be less serious than a felony. As a result, misdemeanors tend to have lower penalties. For example, many misdemeanors carry a maximum jail sentence of less than one year, whereas felony cases tend to be greater than a year.

In some situations, a felony in Florida may carry a life sentence or capital punishment. Here are some of the important distinctions between felonies and misdemeanors.

Misdemeanor Sentences Are Typically Served in Jail

One of the key sentencing differences between a felony and a misdemeanor in Florida is the location where you will serve your time. For misdemeanor charges that carry less than 364 days, the time is typically served in jail. For felony charges that have a sentence longer than 1 year, the time will typically be served in prison.

Jails are typically located within the community where the crime occurred. Because of this, work release programs and other community-based services are commonly part of jail sentences. On the other hand, prison sentences can be served at any facility in the State because the prisons are part of a State system. There are also opportunities to enter work release programs from prison but they typically are not as flexible as jail work release programs (which typically allow you to continue working with your employer).

Conditional Release For Certain Felony Offenses

In 1988, the Florida Legislature passed a law that created a Conditional Release program. Conditional Release programs require inmates to be conditionally released following a prison sentence. These conditional releases require additional monitoring, following the prison sentence, and are mandatory for certain violent crimes and other serious felonies.

Collateral Consequences Tend to Be More Severe in Felony Cases

Aside from the direct consequences of a sentence—such as jail time, prison time, or probation—there are additional consequences that distinguish felonies from misdemeanors. These additional consequences include the ability to find a job, to find housing, to vote, to receive financial aid, or to vote, among other consequences. These collateral consequences can have a lasting impact on a person that extends will beyond the prison sentence and can have a negative impact on a person for life.

There are many differences between felonies and misdemeanors, and we have only touched on a few of those differences here. If you would like to know more information about the distinctions between felonies and misdemeanors as well as how your life or the life of a loved one might be impacted by felony or misdemeanor charges, we invite you to call us today for a free consultation at (772) 492-8967.