Often people have questions about the type of crime they have been charged with, defenses they may use in court, and what might happen to them if convicted. Crimes are divided into felonies and misdemeanors, with many subcategories. Apfelbaum Law is able to assist you with your criminal matter.
Under Florida law, a misdemeanor is any criminal offense that is punishable by up to one year in jail. These offenses are handled by a county court judge and are considered less serious crimes than felony offenses. However, they can still result in jail time, probation, and/or fines, as well as a conviction on a person’s criminal record.
There are a wide variety of crimes that are considered misdemeanors, but here are some of the most common ones people may be charged with:
- Domestic Violence Battery
- Disorderly Conduct
- Driving on a Suspended License (DWLS)
- Driving Under the Influence (DUI) – though in can be considered a felony in certain circumstances
- Loitering and Prowling
- Marijuana (cannabis) possession
- Petty theft
- First Offense Prostitution
- Resisting an Officer Without Violence
Sometimes, people may decide they don’t need a lawyer to defend them on a misdemeanor charge. They may know someone who was charged with a misdemeanor, told the judge they were sorry, and got off with a small fine and maybe a few hours of community service. However, not every misdemeanor charge goes that way in court. There are some important things to remember about misdemeanor charges, even if they seem minor:
- A misdemeanor will go on your criminal record
- Withholding Adjudication of Guilt is still a conviction under Federal law
- If placed on probation, you could face jail if you don’t fulfill the terms of your supervision
- An experienced criminal law attorney might have been able to get the case dismissed
- Although a misdemeanor conviction won’t result in the loss of your civil rights, there is the possibility of jail time, which can last up to 364 days. You could also get a year of probation, and/or a $1,000 fine.
It is more common for judges to adjudicate (convict) first-time offenders guilty of a misdemeanor. However, in many situations, the same person might have received a Withhold of Adjudication if they had acquired a criminal defense attorney to represent them. Even if you receive probation, you could be subject to restrictions and financial costs. Although probation allows you to remain free, go to work, and provide for your family, it will also require you to jump through hoops—meeting with probation officers, paying for monitoring, required community service, etc. In Florida, probation may include the following — say that you are originally arrested for possession of marijuana, the terms of your probation could include:
- Paying fines, court cost and cost of supervision (in some counties, $55 a month or higher).
- Reporting to the probation department monthly, typically the first through the fifth of each month.
- Submitting to random alcohol/drug screening at your own expense.
- Not using any alcohol, illicit drugs or prescription drugs that aren’t prescribed to you, and reporting any medication that is prescribed to you to your probation officer.
- Refraining from associating with people or going to places associated with criminal activities.
- Anyone on probation, even if they were not convicted of a felony, is not allowed to possess a firearm while on probation.
- Report any contact with law enforcement officers, even if you were just riding in a car with someone who got pulled over.
- In addition to the monthly fee, presumptive breath tests for alcohol are about $15 each, while urine screenings for drugs are at least $25 each. If your probation requires you to be electronically monitored, that fee averages about $105 per week, but can be more or less depending on what county you are in.
What About My Criminal Record?
Frequently, people charged with misdemeanors have not been in trouble with the law before. They may be embarrassed by the thought of a criminal conviction, regardless of how minor the crime might be. Such a conviction could also affect their job prospects, as many employers run thorough background checks.
Hiring an experienced Florida criminal defense attorney can reduce the risk of being convicted, but sometimes we talk to clients who already have a misdemeanor conviction that troubles them. It is sometimes possible to have your arrest record cleared later on by either sealing or expunging your record. Unfortunately, these options are not always available. The way in which your case is initially handled may affect your eligibility to later clear your record. Again, obtaining the services of a skilled Florida criminal defense attorney from the start can improve your odds of being able to have your record cleared later. It can also improve your odds of getting the charges dismissed in the first place.
If you need assistance with your misdemeanor case, or have questions about any potential legal matter, please contact Apfelbaum Law for a consultation. We have offices in Port St. Lucie and Stuart, but provide legal services throughout the Treasure Coast and Florida.