It is common knowledge that a felony charge is more serious than a misdemeanor but what does that mean? What makes a crime serious enough to warrant felony charges? These are important questions, and the answers provide foundational knowledge this is good for anyone to know and is especially useful for those who find themselves or a loved one facing allegations of criminal activity.
The answers depend on the definitions of these legal terms, and the definitions can vary by state. With that in mind, we will begin our conversation and note that it focuses on application of Florida law.
How does Florida define a felony?
The definition often hinges on the penalties. State law defines a felony as a criminal act that can lead to penalties including imprisonment in a state penitentiary or death. In contrast, a misdemeanor are offenses punishable by imprisonment in a county correctional facility for one year or less.
What are common examples of felony charges?
When we think of a felony we probably think of the more heinous crimes like murder and rape. Although these certainly qualify as felonies, other examples can include:
- Drug possession. There are times when even the mere possession of an illegal substance can result in felony charges.
- Drunk driving. Driving under the influence can result in felony charges. Examples include a drunk driving accident that results in the death of a passenger or other driver.
- Assault. Although the law generally requires more than a bar room brawl to rise to the level of a felony, it is possible to face felony charges for assault. This can include instances when there are allegations the accused had a deadly weapon or acted with the intent to commit another felony, such as murder.
- Theft. Even accusations of stealing a phone could result in felony charges, as theft of anything valued over $750 can lead to charges for grand theft.
These are just a few examples of possible felony charges. If convicted, each comes with steep financial penalties and potential imprisonment.
What if I am charged with a felony?
The charges are just the beginning. You do not need to agree with the accusations in the hopes the charges will just go away. You have a right to defend yourself against these accusations. A successful defense strategy can result in a reduction or even dismissal of charges. The right strategy will vary depending on the details of the case. A few examples include:
- Self defense. If accused of murder or assault, you may use the argument of self defense if you can establish the other individual began the attack or you otherwise reasonably feared for your life.
- Violation of rights. Our Fourth Amendment protections include the freedom from unreasonable search and seizure. As such, the law requires authorities to follow proper protocol during a traffic stop or search. If police do not follow these rules, any evidence gathered during the search may be inadmissible. As such, you could get the evidence thrown out. This could result in a dismissal of charges if the prosecution no longer has enough evidence to support the charges.
- Permission. There are instances when an individual is wrongly accused of theft after the owner of the property provided permission for use. Evidence of permission can result in dismissal of the charges.
It is important to tailor these and other strategies to your situation. An attorney can review your case and provide guidance to better ensure your rights are protected.