When it comes to crime, our criminal justice system prosecutes defendants with offenses classified as misdemeanors or felonies. Although felonies are well known for being the most severe charge, accompanies by the most severe penalties and lengthy terms of imprisonment, that does not mean misdemeanors are not serious allegations, or that they can’t have a profound and long-term impact on your future.
At Hager & Schwartz, P.A., our legal team is led by two former Florida prosecutors turned defense lawyers who understand the serious nature of misdemeanor allegations. Although classified as a lower offense than felonies, we know these crimes still have a potential for life-altering consequences, which is why we strongly encourage individuals facing any misdemeanor allegation to secure experienced representation.
Although cases and penalties always vary depending on the circumstances, you need to remember that misdemeanors can still result in life-changing penalties and consequences. To help you better understand what’s on the line when facing a misdemeanor charge, we have compiled the following information:
- Fines – Individuals convicted of misdemeanors are commonly penalized by fines from the court. Depending on the nature of the charge – including whether there were any prior convictions – misdemeanors can subject offenders to hundreds if not thousands of dollars in fines. This is especially true in cases involving DUI, theft crimes, and property crimes.
- Incarceration – Misdemeanors can still threaten your future by exposing you to the risk of incarceration. In Florida, most individuals convicted of a misdemeanor offense with terms of imprisonment can face sentences in a county jail up to 1 year (First-Degree misdemeanor) or up to 60 days (Second-Degree misdemeanor).
- Additional repercussions – In addition to fines and terms of imprisonment, individuals convicted of a misdemeanor offense may face additional court-ordered repercussions. This includes probation (with terms ranging up to several years) that may subject individuals to monthly contact with the court, additional fees, restricted freedoms (depending on the circumstances), and the prospect of greater penalties when violations occur. Other court-ordered consequences will vary by case, and may include court-ordered DUI education classes, drug or alcohol counseling, anger management or domestic violence courses, community service, restraining orders, and restitution (monetary payment to a victim). Other repercussions may include the suspension of your driver’s license, particularly in cases involving DUI.
- Loss of civil rights – While it is common knowledge that a felony conviction can result in the loss of one’s civil rights, including the right to vote, there are certain misdemeanor offenses that may also result in a loss of civil rights. For example, being convicted of a domestic violence offense, even if it is a misdemeanor, prohibits a person from purchasing a firearm in Florida. Having an active warrant for your arrest (misdemeanor or felony) also prohibits you from purchasing a firearm.
- Aggravating circumstances – It must be stated that even if you face a misdemeanor offense, the penalties you face can be elevated beyond what it called for by statutory law. This is typically the case when aggravating circumstances are involved in your case, such as having a prior criminal conviction. Having a prior conviction, or even having an elevated BAC level in a misdemeanor DUI case, can subject you to harsher penalties and more time behind bars.
- Criminal record – Misdemeanors are crimes, and any conviction you have will become part of your criminal record – a record that can be accessed publicly by potential employers, landlords, educational organizations, and more. With a conviction on your record, even if it is a misdemeanor, you may not be eligible to hold certain professional licenses or be employed in certain professions. Your opportunities may be further limited by potential employers who look to hire individuals without a record, rather than candidates who have been convicted of crimes.
The impact of a misdemeanor conviction cannot be understated – misdemeanors do have the potential to threaten your rights, privileges, freedom, and future. If you or someone you love is being charged with a misdemeanor, it is in your best interests to speak with a private defense lawyer who has the experience, insight, and resources to effectively advocate on your behalf, wage an effective defense, and pursue the best resolution possible. To discuss a potential case, contact us for an immediate consultation.