If you have been charged with a felony or have recently been released from prison after serving an extended prison sentence, you likely are questioning the impact a felony charge may have on your life, including your future.
Over 70 million individuals in the United States have a criminal record, so you are certainly not alone. However, it is important to understand that a felony, which is associated with a criminal offense that carries a prison sentence of a year or greater, can affect where you can work, where you can live, and potentially every other aspect of your life.
If you recently served time in prison, the most essential thing for you to do is to educate yourself as to how those felony charges will affect you moving forward. If you are currently being charged with a felony, it is critical that you have a skilled legal advocate by your side to assist you in obtaining the most favorable outcome possible. Only an attorney is in the best position to advise you of your legal rights, interests, and options.
The Three Types of Criminal Charges in Florida
In Florida, there are three levels of criminal charges, with felonies being the most severe. Felonies and misdemeanors are classified by degree, which can have an impact on the legal consequences that a person may be subjected to, such as jail time and/or monetary fines. The following lists the three levels of criminal charges in Florida:
Infractions – these are the least severe types of criminal violations. The most common include traffic violations like running a red light or failing to use a turn signal. A person who receives an infraction typically does not have to do anything more than pay a monetary penalty. Given the fact that there is no jury trial, those charged with infractions do not have the right to a court-appointed lawyer.
Misdemeanors – these types of offenses are punishable by up to a year or less in county jail. In some instances, a judge may order the defendant to attend certain classes or do community service instead of serving time behind bars. There are second and first-degree misdemeanors, the severity of which varies with each offense. Some common misdemeanors include driving under the influence, petty theft, and possession of an unregistered firearm. It is important to understand that the first time a person commits a minor offense, it will be charged as a misdemeanor. However, if an individual commits the same crime more than once, it can become elevated to a felony-level charge. Additionally, if a person is charged with a misdemeanor, it is possible to have it expunged from their record or for a felony charge to be dropped down to a misdemeanor. A skilled Florida criminal defense lawyer is in the best position to advise you of your legal rights and options in this regard.
Felonies – these are the most serious of all criminal offenses. Examples of felonies include murder, kidnapping, rape, robbery, drug trafficking, home invasion, and child abuse. All of these criminal offenses have different classifications. In Florida, felonies fall into a number of categories. These are life and capital felonies, first, second, and third-degree felonies. Life and capital felonies are the most severe in Florida and are associated with severe forms of punishment including life imprisonment or the death penalties without the possibility of parole and a monetary fine not to exceed $15,000. Examples of capital felonies include drug trafficking, aggravated child abuse, or burglary with a battery or assault. Second-degree felonies may be punishable by up to 15 years in prison and a monetary fine not to exceed $10,000. Examples of this kind of charge include DUI manslaughter and aggravated battery. Third-degree felonies are the least severe type in Florida and are punishable by up to five years in prison and a monetary fine of no greater than $5,000. Third-degree felonies include theft of an automobile, possession of marijuana with the intent to sell, and DUI with serious bodily injury. Keep in mind that if a person has more than one felony conviction on their record, then they may face an extended period of imprisonment.
How Long will a Felony Charge Stay on My Record in Florida?
In Florida, a felony will remain on your record for the rest of your life. As such, having a felony charge on your record can make even the simplest things very difficult, such as being able to travel, getting a job, and finding a suitable place to live. However, a knowledgeable and skilled Florida criminal defense attorney can help you to fight to have your criminal charges reduced. While no outcome is guaranteed, an attorney can ensure that you get a fair trial.
Sealing or Expunging a Felony Record in Florida
In Florida, it is possible to have your record expunged or sealed if you were charged with a felony but never convicted. A sealed record means that the public cannot obtain information about your charges, however, it is important to understand that most governmental agencies will still have access thereto. Notwithstanding, private employers will not be able to view your felony charge, making it more likely for you to pass a background check.
If you are able to have your record expunged, that means that no one, including governmental agencies, can access information about your criminal record without first obtaining a court order. What this means is that you are not required to tell others about your arrest in most instances. However, keep in mind that if you were convicted of a previous criminal offense, you will be unable to have your charge sealed or expunged, even if you were found not guilty.
The rules around expungement and sealing can be complicated. As such, they often require a skilled lawyer to research whether a person is eligible to avail themselves of these legal options.
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