Crimes have a general classification but can be broken down further into several categories depending on the level of severity. A crime can also be ranked as a felony or misdemeanor depending on the serious consequences of the criminal act.
The categorization of a crime will influence how the case is handled, which is why it is important to understand the difference between a felony and a misdemeanor. The rules that define a criminal act will influence the punishment or potential jail time the offender gets. Let’s first look at what constitutes a felony and a misdemeanor to understand the difference between the two.
Felonies vs. Misdemeanors Crimes in Florida
The basic distinction between a felony and misdemeanor lies on the penalty meted on the offender. The key difference lies in how much jail time and the type of prison the offender gets depending on the severity of the crime.
In Florida, just like in many other states across the country, a felony case is considered to be more serious than a misdemeanor case and will usually attract harsher and lengthier conviction consequences. The District Attorney in Florida decides whether a case should be tried as a misdemeanor or a felony. However, both types of crimes will appear in your record and may even cause restrictions in your education, career, and housing opportunities if you end up convicted of the crime. It is important to find legal representation when facing any type of legal charges, whether it is a felony or misdemeanor case.
What is a Misdemeanor?
The defining feature of a misdemeanor offense is that the punishment carries a jail term of less than a year, usually in a county jail. Misdemeanors do not involve severe bodily harm to another person. Some common misdemeanors include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Drunk Driving
- Receipt of Stolen Property
- Simple Drug Possession
- Petty Theft
These forms of crime are punishable by jail time of less than a year, probation, restitution, community service, counseling, or monetary fines. They will, however, appear in your record.
What is a Felony?
Any crime that is punishable by a prison sentence of more than a year or death is considered as a felony. It’s usually a serious crime and often involves serious bodily harm to another person, assault crimes in the first degree or unlawful acquisition of large sums of money. Common felony offenses include, but are not limited to, the following:
Felony conviction may result in the restriction of your civil rights. For instance, a person convicted of a felony will not be allowed to possess firearms, serve on juries, or even practice in some professions.
Felony offenders will serve over a year of jail time, accorded lengthy probation terms, pay large monetary fines, be put under house arrest, or do community service for a specified length of time.
Sometimes a crime can be either a felony or a misdemeanor based on additional elements or an aggravating feature. For example, possession of a small personal amount of illegal drugs could be a misdemeanor but thirty pounds of the same substance could lead to felony charges.
Both categories of crime will require that the prosecution bring formal charges against the offender, who should be accorded the due process of law. It will be in your best interest to seek the services of a reputable lawyer if charged with either a misdemeanor or a felony.