How Can You Be Criminally Charged?
You can be criminally charged by being physically arrested and booked into the county jail, you can be issued a Notice to Appear (written document) with a mandatory court date (and you are not physically handcuffed and booked into county jail but instead released on your own recognizance) or an arrest warrant can be issued for your arrest.
An information is the technical name of the legal document the Prosecutor’s Office issues that formally charges you with violating Florida Statute.
State Attorney’s Office vs. Statewide Prosecutor’s Office
You can be charged by a local State Attorney’s Office assigned to a specific Florida Circuit Court (by county) or by the Florida Statewide Prosecutor’s Office, if the alleged crime occurred over multiple Florida counties.
Misdemeanors and Felonies
Crimes punishable under Florida Statute are divided into two categories. Misdemeanors and felonies. Felonies have a harsher penalty. Within both types there are different classes. Below is the maximum incarceration time and fine that can be imposed if charged with either.
|Level of Crime||Maximum Incarceration||Maximum Fine|
|Second Degree Misdemeanor||60 days in county jail||$500|
|First Degree Misdemeanor||1 year in county jail||$1,000|
|Third Degree Felony||5 years in state prison||$5,000|
|Second Degree Felony||15 years in state prison||$10,000|
|First Degree Felony||30 years in state prison||$10,000|
|Life Felony||Life in prison||$15,000|
|Capital Felony||Death penalty||N/A|
Burden of Proof
The burden of proof in a criminal case is beyond a reasonable doubt. This means the State has the burden of proving all the elements of the crime(s) you are being charged with beyond a reasonable doubt.
Assault and Battery
Assault and battery are both crimes against a person. You can be charged with assault under Fla. Stat. 784.011 and battery under Fla. Stat. 784.03. The main difference between both crimes is that with a battery there is actually an unwanted touching whereas with an assault there is no actual unwanted touching but an imminent threat to cause harm. The penalties can be harsher if the crime is committed against a pregnant woman, person 65 years or older, law enforcement officer, Firefighter, etc.
Under Fla. Stat. 741.28, domestic violence is defined as any assault, aggravated assault, battery, aggravated battery, sexual assault, sexual battery, stalking, aggravated stalking, kidnapping, false imprisonment, or any criminal offense resulting in physical injury or death of one family or household member by another family or household member. A family or household member means spouses, former spouses, persons related by blood or marriage, persons who are presently residing together as if a family or who have resided together in the past as if a family, and persons who are parents of a child in common regardless of whether they have been married. With the exception of persons who have a child in common, the family or household members must be currently residing or have in the past resided together in the same single dwelling unit. If charged with a domestic violence related crime you could be facing a no contact order under the criminal case and an injunction (aka restraining order) under a civil case.
Theft and Robbery
Florida has a multitude of statues related to the crime of theft and robbery. Theft is a crime against property whereas robbery is a crime against a person both relating to stealing of property. In Florida you can charged with theft under Fla. Stat. 812.014. Under this statue, when the property stolen is valued at $100 but not more than $750 it is considered petit theft, which is charged as a misdemeanor. If the value is $750 but not more than $20,000 it is considered grand theft, which is charged as a felony. In Florida, you can be charged with robbery under Fla. Stat. 812.13, which is classified as a felony.
Burglary and Trespass
Both burglary and trespass are crimes against property. You can be charged with a trespass if you are not authorized and willfully enter or remain in a structure or conveyance or if you were permitted but were warned by an authorized person to leave and you refuse to do so. Whereas you can be charged with burglary if you enter or remain in a structure or conveyance with the intent to commit an offense, unless of course the premises are open to the public or you are licensed or were invited to enter or remain. You may be charged with burglary under Fla. Stat. 810.02, which is classified as a felony, and trespass under Fla. Stat. 810.08 or 810.09, which is classified as a misdemeanor. However, trespass can be classified as a felony if aggravating factors are involved such as the use of a firearm.
Traffic related Criminal Offenses
Did you know if Florida, you could be charged criminally for traffic related offenses? Under Fla. Stat. 322.34, you can be criminally charged with driving with a suspended license, which is typically charged as a misdemeanor. However, it can be classified as a felony if aggravating factors are involved such as it is your third or subsequent conviction or you have been classified as a habitual traffic offender. In Florida, if your motor vehicle registration is expired for more than 6 months you can be charged with a misdemeanor under Fla. Stat. 320.07. Additionally, in Florida if you attach a tag that is not assigned to a vehicle you can be charged with a misdemeanor under Fla. Stat. 320.261.
Florida has a variety of fraud related statutes. Organized scheme to defraud, under Fla. Stat. 817.034, entails you engaging in a scheme to defraud and thereby obtaining property. Motor vehicle title fraud, under Fla. Stat. 319.33, means altering or forging a certificate of title, retaining or using such certificate knowing it has been altered or forged, procuring or attempting to procure or pass or attempt to pass a certificate of title knowing the vehicle is stolen or using a false name, address or any false statement on an application or affidavit for title. Driver license fraud, under Fla. Stat. 322.212, requires knowingly possessing, selling, manufacturing, or delivering a fraudulent driver license or using a fictitious name or false statement on an application for driver license. Criminal use of personal identification information, under Fla. Stat. 817.568, entails any person who willfully and without authorization fraudulently uses, or possesses with intent to fraudulently use, personal identification information concerning another person without first obtaining that person’s consent. All of which are punishable as felonies.
Under Fla. Stat. 932.701 – 932.706, law enforcement can seize any property used in violation of the Florida Contraband Act. What constitutes a contraband article can be anything from personal property, real property, controlled substance, motor vehicle, money or even an object. This means law enforcement can seize your property, vehicles, bank accounts and cash. Under the statute, you are entitled to notice of the seizure and an opportunity for a hearing. Additionally, under Fla. Stat. 895, law enforcement can seize your property if suspected of being used in racketeering activity. In Florida, even though the forfeiture is related to a criminal case the seizure process is civil in nature. It is imperative you have an experienced attorney as you will have two cases, criminal and civil, to deal with that can affect your future and livelihood.
If facing felony charges in Florida, under Fla. Stat. 921.006, you might be able to plead mitigating circumstances. Mitigating factors can lead to a reduced sentence or even probation instead of imprisonment. Some examples of mitigating factors can be negotiating a plea bargain, requiring specialized treatment for a mental disorder, being an accomplice to the crime or the need to pay restitution outweighing the need for a prison sentence. It is important you have an experienced attorney to guide you through your criminal charges and assist in identifying mitigating factors and present them to the prosecutor in order to get you the best possible outcome.
Sealing and Expunging
You might be eligible to expunge or seal your record. In Florida, you are only allowed to expunge or seal one arrest once in your lifetime. There are a multitude of criteria that you have to meet and it can be burdensome to understand. What specific statute you were charged with and the disposition of the case will determine if you qualify. Even if your case was ultimately dismissed in the court system your arrest is still on your record. It is important to have an attorney who understands the requirements and can advise you whether you qualify or not to have your record expunged or sealed.
Retain an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney
If you are facing criminal charges, your property was seized or you want to expunge your criminal record, The Castro Law Firm can help you. Please call us at call (561) 223-9148 to schedule your free consultation.