One of the biggest concerns people have when they find themselves charged with a crime is what sort of sentence are they facing? Can they go to jail? Prison? What is the maximum a judge can sentence them to.
As a Miami criminal attorney, and a Broward criminal attorney, I am faced with these questions nearly everyday. It is completely understandable. Obviously, when you get into trouble, it's human nature to wonder, "What's the worst that can happen?"
Here is quick but handy guide on the maximum penalties available under the law for different sets of crimes. Remember, these are the maximum penalties. First, second, even third-time offenders rarely get the maximum sentence and are usually able to obtain a lesser sentence through a plea bargain. Remember, the job of a criminal defense attorney is to be an advocate on behalf of his or her client. A great part of that advocacy is to negotiate with prosecutors for the best possible resolution. As a former Miami-Dade prosecutor, I dealt with thousands of criminal defense attorneys who negotiated beautifully on behalf of their clients. The negotiation skills of a good criminal defense attorney can do wonders for a client's case. In my experience, prosecutors are willing to accomodate accused people when their criminal attorneys step in and negotiate properly on their behalf.
In any event, here are the MAXIMUM penalties under Florida law:
A 2nd Degree Misdemeanor is a crime punishable by a maximum of 60 days in jail, 6 months probation, and a $500 fine. Examples of 2nd Degree misdemeanors are Petit Theft (when the dollar amount is under $100), Prostitution (first offense), Assault, and Reckless Driving.
A 1st Degree Misdemeanor is a crime punishable by a maximum of 364 days in jail, 1 year probation, and a $1,000 fine. Examples of 1st Degree misdemeanors are Possession of Marijuana (less than 20 grams), Battery, and Driving While License Suspended (2nd conviction).
Misdemeanors, county ordinance violations, DWLS charges (and other criminal traffic offenses), and DUIs are all heard in County Court. Miami-Dade County Court can be held at the Richard E. Gerstein Justice Building (main courthouse), or at any one of Miami-Dade County's Branch Courts. For more information on the location of the main courthouse or the branch courthouses, check out www.miami-dadeclerk.com. Additionally, Broward County Court cases are heard at the judicial complex (main courthouse in Fort Lauderdale) and at any of the satellite courthouses, located in Hollywood, Plantation, or Deerfield Beach. Please refer to the Broward County Clerk's website for more information and driving directions.
All felony offenses are heard at the main courthouses, both in Miami-Dade and Broward.
A 3rd Degree Felony is a crime punishable by a maximum of 5 years in state prison. Examples of 3rd Degree felonies are Possession of Cocaine, Burglary of an Unoccupied Vehicle, and aggravated assault.
A 2nd Degree Felony is a crime punishable by a maximum of 15 years in state prison. Examples of 2nd Degree felonies are Strongarm Robbery, Aggravated Battery, and DUI Manslaughter.
A 1st Degree Felony is a crime punishable by a maximum of 30 years in state prison. Examples of 1st Degree felonies are Grand Theft Over $100,000, Sale of Cocaine Within 1000 Feet of a School, and Trafficking in Cocaine.
A 1st Degree Felony punishable by Life (1st PBL) is a crime punishable by a maximum of life in prison. An example of a 1st PBL is 2nd Degree Murder.
A Life Felony is a crime punishable by a maximum of life in prison. An example of a life felony is Armed Robbery with a Firearm, and 1st Degree Murder.
There are also capital crimes which carry the death penalty. In Florida, a capital offense is a murder with aggravated circumstances (murder was committed during the course of a felony, murder was carried out in an atrocious, heinous, and cruel manner, murder was premeditated and calculated). I do not handle capital murder cases. If you or someone you know is facing the death penalty, please reference the Florida Bar's website to find a skilled, experienced, and qualified litigator to handle this delicate matter.
As for all other crimes, whether 2nd degree misdemeanor, or life felony, I am eager to be your Miami criminal attorney or Broward criminal attorney, depending on the county of your arrest. Call me today.