Felony Charge in Florida
Under Florida Statute Section 775.08, 775.081 and 775.082, felony charges are classified as felonies in the third degree, second degree or first degree. A felony can also be charged as either a life felony or a capital felony punishable by death or life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Any felony charge is serious because it can result in a criminal record and felony conviction. For some felony cases, the court is permitted to withhold an adjudication of guilt so that you can avoid becoming a convicted felon. Additionally, you might be eligible to seal the criminal history of the felony case if the court withholds adjudication and you have no prior convictions.
You might be eligible to expunge the felony record if the charges are dropped by the prosecutor or dismissed by the court.
Attorney for a Felony in Tampa, FL
The attorneys at the Sammis Law Firm, P.A., handle serious felony cases throughout Hillsborough County, FL, and the surrounding areas of Tampa Bay. Call today to speak directly with an experienced criminal defense attorney about the facts of your felony case.
Our main office is located in downtown Tampa. We have a second office in New Port Richey in Pasco County, FL, across from the courthouse at the West Pasco Judicial Center.
Call (813) 250-0500.
The Difference between a Felony and a Misdemeanor in Florida
What is the difference between a felony and a misdemeanor in Florida? Felony cases are prosecuted in Circuit Court while misdemeanor cases are prosecuted in County Court. Misdemeanor crimes in Florida are less serious and are generally classified as either a first-degree misdemeanor or a second-degree misdemeanor.
While misdemeanors are only punishable by jail time in the county jail, a felony is punishable by incarceration in Florida State Prison.
Felony Classifications in Florida
Florida law provides for five different felony classifications. The potential penalties and punishments are set out in Florida Statute §§ 775.082 and 775.083. In addition to the statutory maximum penalties, crimes in Florida are sentenced according to Florida’s Criminal Punishment Code (“CPC”) and sentencing guidelines (often called the “score sheet”).
Each felony offense has a numerical value under a special ranking system set by the Florida legislature. The higher the ranking for the offense, the more points on the CPC score sheet. If the points are less than 44, then the judge is not required to impose a prison sentence. If the points exceed 44, then the person is subject to a minimum term of imprisonment under the guidelines.
Third Degree Felony in Florida
In Florida, a third-degree felony is generally punishable by up to five (5) years in Florida State Prison and/or a $5,000.00 fine. Alternatively, the court can sentence a person on a third-degree felony to probation for up to five years which is supervised by the Florida Department of Corrections (“DOC”).
Examples of a third-degree felony in Florida include:
- Felony DUI with Serious Bodily Injury
- Felony DUI – Third within Ten Years
- Felony DUI – Fourth Lifetime
- Possession of Marijuana with Intent to Sell
- Possession of Marijuana More than 20 Grams
- Cultivation of Cannabis
- Possession of a Controlled Substance
- Carrying a Concealed Firearm
- Aggravated Assault
- Aggravated Stalking
- Grand Theft less than $20,000
- Resisting with Violence
- Battery on a Law Enforcement Officer
Second Degree Felony in Florida
In Florida, a second degree felony is punishable by up to fifteen (15) years in Florida State Prison and/or a $10,000 fine. As an alternative to jail time, the court can sentence the person to up to fifteen years on probation.
First Degree Felony in Florida
In Florida, a third-degree felony is punishable by up to third (30) years in Florida State Prison and/or a 10,000 fine.
In Florida, a life felony is punishable by life in prison and a $15,000 fine. Examples of felonies punishable by life in prison include:
- Sexual battery with a victim 12 years or older, offender uses or threatens to use deadly weapon or physical force to cause serious injury under Florida Statute 794.011(3);
- Sexual battery when the offender younger than 18 years and commits sexual battery on a person less than 12 years under Florida Statute 794.011(2);
- Kidnapping of a child under age 13, perpetrator also commits aggravated child abuse, sexual battery, or lewd or lascivious battery, molestation, conduct, or exhibition under Florida Statute 787.01(3)(a) .
- Kidnapping; inflict bodily harm upon or terrorize victim under Florida Statute 787.01(1)(a)3;
- Unlawful killing of human when the act is homicide, unpremeditated under Florida Statute 782.04(2);
- Robbery with firearm or other deadly weapon under Florida Statute 812.13(2)(a);
- Carjacking with a firearm or other deadly weapon Florida Statute 812.133(2)(a);
- Possessing, selling, using, or attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction under Florida Statute 790.166(2);
- Kidnapping by holding for ransom or reward or as a shield or hostage under Florida Statute 787.01(1)(a)1.;
- Kidnapping with intent to commit or facilitate the commission of any felony under Florida Statute 787.01(1)(a)2.;
- Kidnapping with intent to interfere with the performance of any governmental or political function under Florida Statute 787.01(1)(a)4;
- Accomplice to murder in connection with arson, sexual battery, robbery, burglary and other specified felonies under Florida Statue 782.04(3); and
- Burglary with assault or battery under Florida Statute 810.02(2)(a); Burglary; armed with explosives or dangerous weapon under Florida Statute 810.02(2)(b).
In Florida, a capital felony is punishable by the death penalty or life in prison without the possibility of parole. An example of a capital felony is first-degree murder.
When Can the Court Withhold Adjudication of Guilt for a Felony in Florida?
Florida law prohibits the court from withholding adjudication of guilt in certain types of felony cases. For example, the court is not permitted to withhold adjudication of guilt for any capital, life, or first-degree felony as explained in Florida Statute Section 775.08435(1)(a).
For a second degree felony, the court cannot withhold adjudication unless either:
- the state attorney makes a written request to do so; or
- the court makes written findings that a withhold of adjudication is reasonably justified based on the circumstances or statutorily recognized mitigating factors.
The same prohibition and exceptions apply when a defendant has committed a third-degree felony and has a prior withholding of adjudication for another felony offense.
Section 921.0026, F.S., sets forth fourteen (14) statutory mitigating circumstances that a court may consider when sentencing for a felony offense.
But regardless of the mitigating circumstances, a court may not withhold adjudication when a defendant has committed a second degree felony and has a prior withhold of adjudication from a different offense, or when the defendant committed a third-degree felony and has two or more prior withholdings of adjudication from a different offense as explained in Florida State Section 775.08435.
Consequences of a Felony Conviction
A person convicted of a felony forfeits specified rights as a result of the conviction. The Florida Constitution in Article VI, Section 4 requires the loss of the right to vote and the right to hold public office as consequences of a felony conviction.
The Florida Constitution in Article X, Section 10 defines the term “felony” to mean any criminal offense that is punishable under the laws of this state, or that would be punishable if committed in this state, by death or by imprisonment in the state penitentiary.
Additional civil rights are lost in accordance with statute, including:
- the right to serve on a jury as provided in Section 40.013, F.S.; and
- the right to possess a firearm as provided in Section 790.23, F.S.
The civil rights of a convicted felon are suspended until restored by a pardon or restoration of civil rights. The restoration of civil rights restores to an applicant all of the rights of citizenship in the State of Florida enjoyed before the felony conviction, except the specific authority to own, possess, or use firearms.
Misdemeanor Offenses Eligible for Felony Enhancement
Under Florida law, certain offenses normally classified as a misdemeanor can be enhanced to a felony if the defendant has a prior or multiple prior convictions for the same crime.
For example, the crime of driving under the influence is normally charged as a misdemeanor. DUI can be charged as a felony if:
- the person is convicted of a third or subsequent violation for DUI that occurs within 10 years of a prior conviction; or
- a fourth or subsequent violation regardless of when the prior convictions occurred.
Either of these enhanced versions of DUI can be charged as a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084. SS. 316.193(2)(b)1. and S. 316.193(2)(b)3., F.S.
For the crime of driving while driver license suspended, revoked, canceled, or disqualified (DWLSR), the crime can be charged as a civil infraction (without knowledge), a second-degree misdemeanor (with knowledge) or a first-degree misdemeanor (with knowledge and a prior). The crime of DWLSR can even be charged as a third-degree felony for a third or subsequent conviction as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084. S. 322.34(2)(c), F.S.
The crime of battery is normally charged as a misdemeanor. If a person has one or more prior qualifying convictions and then commits a second or subsequent battery, then the crime can be charged as a felony of the third degree as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084. S. 784.03(2), F.S. Those qualifying offenses would include a conviction for battery, aggravated battery, or felony battery.
Although the crime of prostitution is normally charged as a misdemeanor, a third or subsequent violation for prostitution is a third degree felony, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 7775.083, or s. 775.084. S. 796.07(4)(a)3., F.S.
The crime of criminal mischief is normally charged as a misdemeanor (depending on the amount of the damage), but if the person has one or more previous convictions for criminal mischief, the offense shall be reclassified as a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084. S. 806.13(1)(b)4., F.S.
The crime of voyeurism is charged as a misdemeanor, but if a person who commits voyeurism has a previous conviction or adjudication of delinquency for two or more prior charges of voyeurism, then the crime can be charged as a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084. S. 810.14(3), F.S.
Although petit theft is normally charged as a misdemeanor, petit theft can be charged as a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083. S. 812.014(3)(c), F.S., if the person has previously been convicted two or more times of any theft.
Jury Selection in Felony Cases in Florida
For any capital case in Florida, twelve (12) jurors shall try capital cases as required by Section 913.10, Florida Statutes and Fla. R. Crim. P. 3.270.
In most felony cases, only six (6) jurors are required to try the case. The court will typically select one alternate juror who can step in if any of the six (6) jurors are unable to continue in the case at any time before jury deliberation begins. See Section 913.10, Florida Statutes and Fla. R. Crim. P. 3.270. In Florida, the rules for jury selection in felony cases are found in Rules 3.280-3.350, Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure.
In Williams v. Florida, 399 U.S. 78 (1970), the United States Supreme Court held that a six-member criminal jury is sufficient under the Sixth Amendment.
Peremptory Challenges in Felony Criminal Cases
For any felony case NOT punishable by death or life in prison, and all misdemeanor cases, each party shall be entitled to three (3) peremptory challenges plus one (1) peremptory challenge for each alternate. In addition, the trial court has the discretion to allow additional peremptory challenges when appropriate. See, Fla. R. Crim. P. 3.350.
For any felony punishable by Death or Life in Prison, each party shall be entitled to ten (10) peremptory challenges, plus one (1) peremptory challenge for each alternate juror. The trial court has the discretion to allow additional peremptory challenges when appropriate as explained in Fla. R. Crim. P. 3.350.
Challenges for Cause in Felony Criminal Cases
Florida law does not impose a cap on challenges for cause, but any party seeking a challenge for cause must state grounds with specificity so that the court can determine the validity of the challenge for cause. Florida Statute Section 913.03, explains the grounds for challenge to individual jurors for cause. A challenge for cause is appropriate when a potential juror exhibits either inferred bias or actual bias as explained in Florida Statutes Section 913.03. That section also contains a list of qualifications that exhibit an inferred bias.
Florida Misdemeanor Charges – Learn more about crimes charged as either a first or second-degree misdemeanor under Florida law.
Search for Felony Probation Active Offenders in Florida – For felony cases that require probation, the probation is supervised by the Department of Corrections. Visit the website for the Florida Department of Corrections to learn more about the re-entry resource directory, definitions, frequently-asked-questions and probation offices. The website also includes monthly and annual publications as well as special reports with the most recent statistics.
Obtaining a Florida Criminal History and Felony Record Information – The Division of Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) is the central repository for criminal history information and arrest records for the State of Florida. Besides maintaining the criminal history and arrest record information, the FDLE CJIS has the responsibility of providing public access to this information when requested.
Florida’s Criminal Punishment Code – To learn more about the Code, visit an article entitled, “A Comparative Assessment (FY 2012-2013) Executive Summary (Offenses Committed On or After October 1, 1998).”
Finding a Felony Attorney in Florida
After an arrest for a felony offense in Florida, contact an attorney at the Sammis Law Firm. We represent clients on a variety of first, second and third-degree felony offenses throughout the Tampa Bay area.
Our main offices are in downtown Tampa in Hillsborough County, FL. Our second office is located in New Port Richey in Pasco County, across from the West Pasco Judicial Center.
Call (813) 250-0500 to discuss your case with an attorney during a free and confidential consultation.
This article was last updated on Tuesday, September 25, 2018.