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Felony Charges in Florida

A felony in Florida is any serious crime that could result in punishment greater than one year. In Florida, Felonies are subdivided into separate categories referred to as degrees (3rd, 2nd, 1st, Life, and Capital).

  • Third Degree Felonies (e.g. grand theft, possession of a controlled substance) carry a maximum punishment of five years, whether that is five years of prison in Department of Corrections, probation, or a combination of both not to exceed five years.
  • Second Degree Felonies (e.g. Aggravated Battery, Robbery, Traveling to Meet a Minor to Engage in Sex) carry a maximum punishment of 15 years, whether that is 15 years of prison in Department of Corrections, probation, or a combination of both not to exceed that time.
  • First Degree Felonies (e.g. Burglary with assault/battery, Drug Trafficking) can carry a maximum punishment of 30 years, whether that is 30 years of prison in Department of Corrections, probation, or a combination of both not to exceed that time.
  • Life Felonies (e.g. Lewd or lascivious molestation; victim less than 12 years; offender 18 years or older, Robbery with firearm or other deadly weapon) can carry a maximum punishment of life in prison.
  • Capital Felonies (e.g. Murder) can carry a maximum punishment of death or life imprisonment without parole.

In addition to the degree of the Felony, you can also have an enhanced sentence based on the Florida Criminal Scoresheet where additional points can be added based on sentence enhancements, such as the age of or injury to a victim. 

Why You Should Hire an Experienced Trial Lawyer  

The hiring of an attorney could be the most important decision of your life. You should base your decision on results and experience and not advertisements or pitchmen. Get a lawyer that has experience handling cases like yours. Ask your potential lawyers about their trial experience and their previous cases. Look at their published results, ask them for actual experience, such as how many jury trials they have had for cases with the same charges as you face. Some lawyers may bluff like they have tried a few cases, but that doesn’t help you if all those “cases” were uncontested parking ticket matters!

Here are some important questions to ask any potential lawyers and law firms:

  • Have they ever tried a jury trial case for the charges you are facing?
  • Have they ever tried a criminal jury trial? If so, when was the last trial they actually handled? If Bill Clinton was in still in office the last time they tried a case, the Prosecutors know they are not likely to take any case to trial, no matter the strengths. Don’t think your case is special to them.
  • If they intend to assign your case to another lawyer, who exactly is the lawyer that will appear on your behalf? 
  • Does that lawyer work for this firm or are they a Contract Lawyer? This happens with some of those “TV Advertising” lawyers. You see the attorney on the TV, but that lawyer hasn’t been to court for a case like yours in years–if EVER!
  • What are some of the results of their previous cases?
  • How many cases have they actually handled, personally?

Don’t be mislead by advertisements that claim offices throughout Florida or hundreds of years of combined legal experience. More times than not, what you may end up with is a lawyer that advertises but never goes to court or actually handles cases. You could end up paying a very large legal fee to someone who subcontracts to another lawyer for a low hourly wage. You have a right to know who exactly is handling your case, and what exactly is his or her qualifications and previous experience. Don’t be fooled by a criminal defense “firm” that claims to be in every city in the State of Florida. It’s all smoke and mirrors. I know first hand as I was contacted to handle that “firm’s” cases. You should be skeptical if the folks you see on TV are no where to be found when it’s time to actually handle the case.

Results Matter

I am a trial lawyer that has actual experience, both prosecuting and defending criminal cases. As a former felony prosecutors, I have personally handled thousands of cases just like yours, including jury trial experience for both the prosecution and the defense.


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