Penalties FAQ

Ask a Tallahassee criminal defense attorney!

What types of consequences can I expect from a criminal conviction?
The types of penalties you are facing depend on the type of crime you are charged with and its criminal classification. A misdemeanor conviction will usually only result in a maximum of one year of incarceration in a county jail, though many individuals receive less jail time or none at all. Those who are able to avoid jail time usually receive probation or simply a fine. Fines for misdemeanors can amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Felony convictions carry much more severe penalties including a year or years of imprisonment, and thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines. The most extreme prison terms are those for several decades or even life in prison. In Florida, murder and some other offenses can result in the death penalty.

What are some of the other factors that are used to set penalties?
One important factor that affects what types of penalties an offender will receive is the individual's criminal background. Offenders with previous convictions tend to receive harsher sentencing. Penalties may also become more severe if an offense is considered an "aggravated" crime, meaning that certain factors made the crime more serious. Some common examples might include the use of violence, the result of injury or death to another person, the involvement of a certain type of victim (such as a public safety officer or a minor), or the use of weapon.

In addition to incarceration and fines, what are some other common penalties?
There are other consequences commonly associated with certain types of crimes. For example, driving-related offenses such as driving under the influence (DUI) and driving without a license commonly result in driver's license suspensions or revocations. DUI convictions may also result in a requirement to complete DUI courses and the requirement to install an ignition interlock device in one's vehicle. People who are convicted of certain sex crimes are required to register as sex offenders for the rest of their lives.

Are there alternative sentencing options that are less severe?
Yes. Many defendants are able to get probation in place of jail time. When a person is under probation, they must comply with certain probation terms, such as being under house arrest, completing drug treatment or other rehabilitative programs, or paying fines and maintaining employment. In many cases, if the offender completes probation successfully, the charges are dismissed and the individual can avoid conviction. This is commonly referred to as deferred adjudication or pretrial diversion. A skilled lawyer can help you assess your situation and determine whether or not you may qualify for alternative sentencing.