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.