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What is the difference between a Misdemeanor and a Felony?

Many people wonder what the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony is in Florida. The simple answer is a felony is more severe than a misdemeanor. However, there is even different levels of severity among misdemeanors and felonies.

Misdemeanors are classified into first and second degree misdemeanors. Second degree misdemeanors are the lowest level of criminal offenses. A second degree misdemeanor can carry up to 60 days in jail and/or 6 months of probation. Examples of second degree misdemeanors are driving while license suspended, leaving the scene of an accident, or some trespassing charges. The next level up is first degree misdemeanors. First degree misdemeanors can carry up to a year in jail and/or 12 months of probation. Examples of first degree misdemeanors are battery, possession of less than 20 grams of marijuana, or possession of drug paraphernalia. In Florida, DUI's have a unique sentencing structure that does not strictly follow this scheme.

Felonies are then classified into first, second, and third degree felonies. Third degree felonies are the lowest level. They include grand theft, burglary of a structure or conveyance, and possession of a controlled substance. They can carry up to five years in prison or probation. The next level up is second degree felonies. These incluce Dealing stolen property, aggravated battery, burglary of a dwelling, and sale of a controlled substance. Second degree felonies can carry up to 15 years in prison and/or probation. The most severe charges in Florida are first degree felonies. First degree felonies are also broken up into regular first degree felonies, such as trafficking of controlled substances; felonies punishable by life, such as armed burglary of a dwelling or armed kidnapping; and capital felonies such as first degree murder and capital sexual battery. For regular first degree felonies, an individual could be imprisoned for 30 years. Life felonies carry a possible life sentence in prison; capital sexual battery carry a mandatory life sentence. Finally, First degree or felony-murder carries a possible death penalty.

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