Most folks know that misdemeanors are “minor” offenses (at least in comparison to the more serious felony tier of crimes). However, that doesn’t mean the impact on your life will be minor.
If you are arrested for a misdemeanor offense in Broward County, it’s important to invest in legal counsel. Our primary goal is usually for our client to walk away without a conviction, but even when that’s not possible, a skilled criminal defense lawyer can help negotiate the charges down to a lesser offense, fight for reduced penalties, and soften the impact on your daily life.
Florida Misdemeanor Penalties
Under the umbrella of misdemeanors, there are two tiers of severity:
- First-degree misdemeanors. The maximum penalties for 1st degree misdemeanors in Florida are punishable by up to one year in prison, a maximum fine of $1,000, or both.
- Second-degree misdemeanors. The maximum penalties for 2nd degree misdemeanors in Florida are punishable by a maximum 60 days in jail, a fine of up to $500, or both.
(There are also non-criminal violations that are typically issued via citation that carry possible fines and other penalties, but usually no jail time.)
But it’s possible your penalties could even exceed this if certain enhancements apply. This could happen because of aggravating circumstances (you used a gun, the alleged victim was a minor, etc.), you have prior convictions, etc. In some cases, first-degree misdemeanors can be leveled up to third-degree felonies – meaning all of the sudden, you’re facing the possibility of five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
In addition to this, judges can require completion of costly diversion programs, community service, house arrest, substance abuse treatment and monitoring, loss of driver’s license, etc. Depending on your circumstances and the nature of the offense, a misdemeanor charge or conviction can have a ripple effect on your life – in a pending divorce case, child custody issue, an immigration matter, or with your professional license. You could also be kicked out of school, be disqualified for certain loans, and passed over by certain landlords.
All of this is why hiring a Broward criminal defense lawyer to represent you with your misdemeanor is imperative. The State of Florida does provide you with legal counsel if you cannot afford one yourself – but only if you are facing the possibility of jail time. And while there are many dedicated, experienced lawyers working for the public defender’s office, the amount of time and resources they dedicate to your case is likely to be less than what a private lawyer can devote. When we’re talking about your future, that’s not something you want to skimp on. Continue reading