For most first-time offenders and even offenders with some arrests in their background, you are not likely going to go to jail for a misdemeanor offense. Diversion programs, such as the Pretrial Diversion in Miami-Dade County and the Misdemeanor Diversion Program in Broward County, allow first-time offenders to take classes, do community service hours, and perform other conditions that, if successfully completed, will lead to the dismissal of the charges.
For offenders with priors, most prosecutors are willing to simply resolve non-domestic violence, non-DUI misdemeanors to a withhold (not a conviction) and the payment of court costs.
So long as you have no prior convictions and have never sealed or expunged a record in the State of Florida before, you may be eligible to seal the withhold.
If you have serious priors, including felony convictions, or multiple priors for the same offense, you could expect that the prosecution will be seeking jail time. This is true for DWLS cases where the defendant may be an HTO (Habitual Traffic Offender) or was driving on a DUI suspension or revocation.
For first DUIs, the mandatory penalties under Florida do not require any jail time. However, if there was a crash involved or if the arrest officer has a bone to pick with you, the state may be seeking some jail time. If you go to trial and are found guilty on a first DUI, expect the judge to give you a little time, anywhere from 10 to 180 days.
Second DUIs within 5 years and third DUI? Expect a plea offer including jail time. For repeat misdemeanor domestic violence offenders, you can expect plea offers to include jail. Even for first-time domestic violence offenders, if you go to trial and are found guilty, you can reasonably expect a jail sentence, at least 5 days.
It is a common myth to think that you cannot go to jail for a misdemeanor. Every misdemeanor in Florida is punishable by jail. For second-degree misdemeanors, you face a maximum of 60 days in jail. For first-degree misdemeanors, you face a maximum of 1 year.
Don’t take any arrest lightly. Even if you don’t go to jail, there are longterm consequences to getting arrested, such as permanent criminal records and the possibility of deportation if you are not a US citizen.
Eric Matheny is a criminal defense attorney serving Miami-Dade County and Broward County.