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Felony, Infractions and Misdemeanors in Florida

The Florida criminal justice system classifies criminal related activities into three distinct groups:

  • Non-criminal violations
  • Misdemeanours
  • Felonies

These categories are classified depending on the gravity of the criminal activity. An assortment of legal penalties exist in the Florida criminal code for these offences. Summarily Florida crimes are tried on the basis of this categorization.

What is a Felony in Florida?

Felonies refer to a category of grievous criminal offences that hold the highest criminal offence ranking in the state of Florida. They are considered actual crimes along with misdemeanours but attract weightier imprisonment terms in the state penitentiary. Felonies are also punishable by death penalty.

What are some examples of felonies in Florida

Some examples crimes considered as felonies include the following:

  • Robbery
  • Murder
  • Aggravated battery
  • Child abuse
  • Burglary
  • Kidnapping
  • Grand theft
  • Incest
  • Carjacking
  • Drug trafficking
  • Resisting an officer with violence

The state of Florida further divides felonies into the following subcategories for the purpose of assigning appropriate penalties:

  • Capital felony
  • Life felony
  • Felony of the first degree
  • Felony of the second degree
  • Felony of the third degree

Capital and life felonies constitute the gravest criminal offences in the state of Florida. They are assigned the highest possible punishment of death penalty or life imprisonment without any option of parole. A fine of no less than $15,000 is also imposed for life felonies along with jail time in line with Florida state laws (Fla. Stat. §§ 775.083 (2019)).. An example of capital felony is first degree murder

First degree felonies attract a sentence of up to 30 years imprisonment and a fine of $10,000. It is usually applied to punish rape, aggravated battery of a law enforcement agent and burglary (Fla. Stat. §§ 775.082, 775.083 (2019))..

Felony of the second degree is punishable with jail terms of up to 15 years plus a fine of at most $10,000. Crimes under this subcategory include examples like trading controlled substance with a minor, sexual battery and child abuse (Fla. Stat. §§ 775.082, 775.083 (2019))..

Felony of the third degree results in imprisonment of up to 5 years and fines of up to $5,000. Criminal activities under this group include resisting arrest violently, cocaine possession and automobile theft. They are the least grievous of the subgroups of felonies. Statutory felonies that are not specified as a subcategory or degree by legislators are automatically classified as third degree felonies in compliance with the state criminal laws (Fla. Stat. §§ 775.081 (2019)).

Can I get a Felony Removed from a Court Record in Florida?

Persons who have had felony or DUI convictions are generally not eligible for expungement in the state of Florida. The state of Florida only permits expungement of a criminal record if no conviction resulted. Multiple arrest charges also disqualifies an individual from expungement. To qualify for expungement of a felony, a person must have met the following conditions:

  • The district attorney filed no arrest charges
  • The case was dropped or dismissed
  • No conviction or guilty verdict was passed by a judge or jury.
  • Juvenile felonies and identified misdemeanors (covered in Fla. Stat. 943.0585(1)(d)) that led to an adjudication of delinquency have already been expunged in compliance with Fla. Stat. §§ 943.0515
  • No arrest record has ever been sealed or expunged in the state (except for old records sealed for 10 years or more).

An expungement can also be obtained if the individual enters a guilty plea and has successfully completed the terms of his or her sentence or probation. In addition, an expunction can be obtained in the case of a mistaken identity (or identity theft). An individual is not obliged to disclose personal criminal information if the records have been expunged or sealed. Another group of persons who are eligible to have their records expunged or sealed are victims of human trafficking. This class of persons may, typically, have been apprehended for or found guilty of prostitution-related offences. They can file a petition to have their criminal records expunged. Their petition however, must be supported by:

  • A sworn attestation that the victim is eligible for expunction and that no pending petition for expunction or sealing exist for him or her.
  • Relevant documentary proof supporting the fact of his or her claim of being trafficked (Fla. Stat. §§ 943.053).

A broad list of exempted criminal offences exist that can not be expunged even if an individual has pled guilty. The following are examples of such exemptions:

  • Arson
  • Battery
  • Carjacking
  • Child abuse
  • Sexual violations
  • Domestic violence

Is expungement the same as sealing court records in Florida?

Expungements are essentially the same as sealing court records in the state of Florida. Expungements (or expunctions) and court sealing both serve to render criminal history records closed to public access. The process for obtaining both of them are also basically the same and they both guarantee that the subject records are confidential and exempt. Although expunctions involve the physical destruction of the records by a court order in tandem with Fla. Stat. §§ 943.045(16), a confidential record history is still retained with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) for specific statutory purposes. The criminal justice agency is legally permitted to retain documentary proof of complying with the expunction order. On the other hand, sealed records are preserved under secure conditions and restricted from public access. They can only be accessed by entities who possess legal backing like law enforcement agencies (who must be duly backed by a court order)(Fla. Stat. §§ 943.045(19)).. Expunctions, likewise require a court order to gain access. Nevertheless, legal exceptions are permitted on the order of a court to provide information on the existence of expunged records when the subject of the records is:

  • An employment candidate with a law enforcement agency
  • An admission candidate to The Florida Bar
  • A potential agent to other professional licensing, access authorization and employment entities.

An individual is qualified to petition for court sealing of records under these conditions:

  • The subject record does not fall under the category of prohibited records as outlined in Fla. Stat. §§. 943.0584.
  • The individual has never been convicted of any crime in the state.
  • He or she has never sealed a criminal record in the state
  • Juvenile felonies and identified misdemeanors (as covered under Fla. Stat.§§ 943.0585(1)(d)) that led to an adjudication of delinquency have already been expunged in compliance with Fla. Stat. §§ 943.0515

How Long Does a Felony Stay on Your Record in Florida?

A felony on an individual’s record has no expiration in the state of Florida. The felony constitutes a portion of the individual’s criminal history for life. This criminal history records is also available as public records inthe state. Florida Public records are composed of information retained and preserved by government bodies that are open to public disclosure and inspection (under Fla. Stat.§§ 119.07 ).. The main exception to this exists in situations where records have been sealed or expunged. Other possible exceptions include when the president or governor grants a pardon.

What are Misdemeanors in Florida?

A misdemeanour as defined by the Florida criminal code is any offence of a criminal nature that attracts a legal penalty of imprisonment of not more than 1 year in a county correctional institution. It does not imply an indictment for any civil traffic violation as stated in chapter 316 of the Florida statute. They are generally dealt with by the county courts.

Although misdemeanours are less severe crimes than felonies, they are more serious than non- criminal violations. The state of Florida categorizes misdemeanours into two basic divisions for the purpose of sentence:

  • Misdemeanours of the first degree
  • Misdemeanours of the second degree

Misdemeanours of the first degree, the most grave of misdemeanours, are punishable by jail terms of up to 1 year and fines of up to $1,000. Property theft valued between $100 and $750 is a typical example of this category of misdemeanour (Fla. Stat. §§ 775.082, 775.083 (2019))..

Misdemeanours of the second degree constitute the least grave of misdemeanours in the state of Florida. Convicted offenders can be incarcerated for up to 60 days as well as fined up to $500. Prostitution is an example of a misdemeanour of the second degree. Statutory misdemeanours that are not specifically classified by the legislature, are automatically punishable as misdemeanours of the second degree (Fla. Stat. §§ 775.082, 775.083 (2019))..

What are Examples of Misdemeanors in Florida?

Misdemeanours in the state of florida include the following examples:

Misdemeanours of the first degree;

  • Shoplifting
  • Vandalism
  • Indecent exposure
  • Simple battery
  • Marijuana possession (less than 20gm)

Misdemeanours of the second degree:

  • Simple assault
  • Simple trespass
  • Disorderly conduct
  • Petit theft (first offence)
  • Driving on a suspended license

A misdemeanour conviction can create considerable drawbacks, chief of which is the introduction into a subject’s criminal history records. Opportunities for securing employment and obtaining certain professional licenses may also be affected. Additionally, the subject may have his or her license suspended.

Can I Get a Misdemeanor Removed from a Record in Florida?

Florida state law provides for most misdemeanours to be removed from an individual’s record through expunction or sealing. The first requirement for a record to be sealed or expunged is to obtain a certificate of eligibility for either sealing or expunction. This certificate is obtained from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Some of the conditions for ineligibility are as follows:

  • Records that reveal a felony conviction
  • Records that reveal a conviction for certain driving violations, such as DUI
  • Records that reveal a prior sealing or expunction
  • Records that reveal a conviction for certain sex crimes
  • Prior pending request for sealing or expungement of criminal records
  • Records that reflects that court supervision on the charge has not been completed

The Department also ascertains that the specific misdemeanour does not fall under the list of disqualified offences. This comprehensive list of offences distinctly defines offences that cannot be expunged or sealed in line with Florida law. Misdemeanours of the second degree are the most likely to be eligible for removal. After obtaining a certificate of eligibility for expunction or court-sealing, a petition is then filed with the Clerk of Court.

Can a DUI Record Be Expunged in Florida?

Only misdemeanour charges can be expunged or sealed in the state of Florida. DUI-related felony charges are ineligible for expunction or court sealing. Some conditions for eligibility includes:

  • No filed charges by the prosecutor
  • Dropped or dismissed charges by the court
  • Cases of acquittals or not guilty verdict
  • No pending petition to seal or expunge records

Disclosure of the existence of DUI expunged records is permitted for employment and certification purposes. The contents of the records have, however, been destroyed and obliterated by law and no longer exist for public viewing. Individuals are not liable for perjury when they deny enquiries about past DUI arrest records. Records containing DUI conviction cannot be expunged or sealed in the state of Florida. Sealed records cannot be viewed when employment background checks are run. Records are eligible for sealing if a DUI charge was reduced to reckless driving charge and the court withheld adjudication.

The process for expunction or sealing of records commences with the certification of eligibility. This certification is usually done by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. It is then followed by filing of petition for expungement or sealing of the DUI arrest records with the Clerk of Courts. The expunction order may then be signed by a judge. This process typically takes up to a month.

What constitutes an Infraction in Florida?

Florida state criminal code defines an infraction as a noncriminal violation that does not incur the punishment of jail time (incarceration). An infraction offender is neither entitled to the right of a jury trial or to a counsel appointed by the court. Penalties for infractions may, however, include community service hours (under s. 316.027(4)), payment of assessed fines and delinquent fees. A typical example of infractions in the state of Florida is traffic violations.

Traffic violations can be classified as either civil traffic offences or criminal traffic offences. Most infractions fall under the category of civil traffic offences. Civil traffic offences can either be moving (like careless driving) or non-moving (like no seat belt). A civil traffic ticket or citation is commonly issued by a law enforcement officer when he or she judges that an individual has violated a civil traffic law.

Citations must be responded to within thirty (30) days from the issuance date. Failure to respond within the stipulated period may result in the suspension of driver licence and payment of late fees. The following are possible responses to a civil traffic citation:

  • Pay the assessed fine and the delinquent fee either by mail, or in person
  • Request an informal hearing
  • Request a formal hearing and secure legal representation
  • Attend traffic school

Criminal traffic violations are not considered as infractions, they are rather misdemeanours in most cases. However, a felony charge may also occur if a DUI offence results in the loss of life or serious injury. Another case is when an individual has been identified as a habitual traffic offender. Felony charges impose the penalty of heavier fines, incarceration or both.

A criminal traffic citation is issued when a criminal traffic law has been violated. A citation for a criminal traffic offence mandates the individual to appear in court. A bench warrant may be issued for the individual’s arrest if he or she fails to appear in court.

Examples of these types of violations include:

  • Driving under the influence (DUI)
  • Reckless driving
  • Knowingly driving with a suspended license
  • Escaping the scene of an accident with damaged property

What are some examples of Infractions in Florida?

Examples of infractions are as follows:

  • Executing an illegal U-turn
  • Speeding over legal limits
  • Disobeying a stop light
  • Violating a parking meter
  • Illegal street crossing
  • Driving without a seat belt
  • Running a stop sign
  • Executing an unsafe lane change
  • No child seat belt
  • Driving on the shoulder

Can Infractions be Expunged from a Florida Criminal Court Record?

The Florida criminal justice system only provides for the dismissal of infractions. Expunctions of infractions are not specifically provided for under the Florida Penal code(). This is founded upon the fact that infractions are defined essentially as non-criminal violations. They entail no jail time and are characterized by penalties like fines, fees or community service.

A dismissed civil traffic violation implies that no civil traffic ticket or citation exists for the named individual. It also means that dismissal fines have also been paid and documentary evidence presented to cancel issued citation. Since infractions do not constitute records eligible for expunction or sealing, they can thus be accessed as public records.

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