What Are Misdemeanor Charges?
All criminal charges in Florida are defined as either misdemeanor or felony crimes. The major distinction between the two is the potential length of sentence. Under Florida law a misdemeanor is defined as a criminal charge which is punishable by a maximum penalty of no more than one year in the county jail. In other words, you can not be sentenced to a prison sentence in the Department of Corrections if you are convicted of the charge.
Each misdemeanor crime in Florida is defined as either a first or second degree misdemeanor. A second degree charge is punishable by up to 60 days in the county jail, and/or a $500 fine. Common examples of second degree charges are driving without a license, simple assault, disorderly intoxication, disorderly conduct, and first offense retail theft.
A first degree misdemeanor is punishable by a maximum jail sentence of one year in the county jail, and/or a $1000 fine. Common examples of first degree charges include battery, marijuana possession, possession of drug paraphernalia, and violation of a domestic violence injunction.
An important distinction between first and second degree misdemeanors is the right to a jury trial. Under Florida law if you are charged with a first degree charge, you have an absolute right to a jury trial, which is comprised of six jurors. To be found guilty of the crime, all six jurors must be unanimous.
You do not have the right to a jury trial for a second degree misdemeanor charge, which means that a judge may decide your guilt or innocence if you wish to contest the charge. You can still seek a jury trial, however, and the prosecution will often times agree to have a jury trial for whatever reason. One notably exception to this rule is in theft cases, where Florida law allows an absolute right to a jury trial. You also have an absolute right to a jury trial if charged with driving under the influence, commonly referred to as DUI.
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