Felony charges encompass a wide range of criminal offenses, ranging from acts of physical violence to white-collar fraud. What sets felony charges apart from misdemeanors is the severity of the offense and its resulting penalties. Getting convicted of a felony can be life-altering, resulting in the loss of valuable civil rights, as well as the potential loss of liberty. 

This page will explore the various felony offenses in the state of Florida. Whether you’re facing a felony charge of your own or simply seek to better understand the criminal justice system, this page will provide you with insight into the complexities of a felony offense in Florida. 

Felony Defense Attorney in Palm Beach, Florida

Hiring a skilled defense attorney who can fight against felony charges or negotiate for a lesser charge or sentence is crucial if you or a loved one have recently been accused of a felony crime. Contact the Law Offices of Ian Goldstein at (561) 600-0950 for a consultation to discuss your case details. 

What is a Felony? 

In Florida, criminal acts are categorized as either a misdemeanor or felony offense. 

Under Florida Statute Section 775.08, a felony offense is defined as any criminal offense that is punishable by more than one year imprisonment in a state penitentiary (state prison) or by death. A felony differs from a misdemeanor because it can result in incarceration of more than one year in a state prison rather than a jail. Based on sentencing alone, felonies are the more severe crimes in comparison to misdemeanors. 

Examples of Felony Offenses in Florida 

While most felony offenses are considered harmful and dangerous to society, distinct types of felonies are divided into categories of either violent or non-violent felonies. 

A non-violent felony is considered a serious crime but does not include elements of bodily harm to another person. Examples of non-violent felony offenses may include: 

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) provides a list of violent offenses, where the term “violent” means that these offenses involve the “actual or threat of harm towards another person where there was a reasonable probability of causing physical harm.” Examples of violent felonies include:

Degrees and Penalties for Felony Offenses 

Under Florida Statute Section 775.081, felony offenses are categorized into five different degrees. Those categories, along with the penalties provided for each by Florida Statute Sections 775.082 and 775.083, are as follows: 

  • Third-degree felony: A conviction carries up to $5,000 in fines and up to 5 years in prison.
  • Second-degree felony: A conviction carries up to $10,000 in fines and up to 15 years in prison.
  • First-degree felony: A conviction carries up to $10,000 in fines and up to 30 years in prison.
  • Life felony: A conviction carries up to $15,000 in fines and a term of imprisonment for life or by a term of imprisonment not exceeding 40 years.
  • Capital felony: A conviction carries the possibility of being punished by death or by life imprisonment without eligibility for parole. 

Federal Offenses 

When a person is accused of a crime that specifically violates U.S. law, they can be charged with a federal offense. Federal charges often carry harsher penalties than offenses prosecuted by State courts, which is why they should always be taken seriously. 

Federal crimes are classified as either federal misdemeanors or federal felonies. When a federal offense is considered a felony, it is then categorized in classes A, B, C, D, and E based on the severity of the offense: 

  • Class A Felony – Life imprisonment or death penalty;
  • Class B Felony – 25 years or more in prison;
  • Class C Felony – Between 10 – 24 years in prison;
  • Class D Felony – Between 5 – 9 years in prison;
  • Class E Felony – Between 1 – 4 years in prison.

Examples of federal felonies include white collar crimes, drug-related crimes, murder, arson, terrorism, and sex crimes. Read our page on Federal Criminal Defense for a deeper insight into the federal cases our firm handles. 

Felony Criminal Procedure 

When an individual is accused of a felony offense, they will go through several steps of the Florida Criminal Procedure process: 

  1. First Appearance – Within 24 hours of their arrest, unless they have bonded out of jail, the defendant must appear before a judge. During this first hearing, the judge will inform the accused person of the charges against them as well as set bond. Depending on the case details, the defendant may be released on bond if they pay the required amount or may be held in custody without bond. 
  2. Arraignment – During arraignment, the state attorney (or prosecutor) will read the defendant the formal charges against them. The defendant and their counsel may choose to either enter a plea of not guilty, nolo contendere (not contesting the charges), or guilty. If the defendant enters a plea of not guilty, then both sides will prepare for trial. 
  3. Preliminary Hearing – The defendant and prosecutor will meet solely with the judge (without a jury at this point) for the preliminary hearing to establish whether the State has enough evidence to support its accusation against the defendant with sufficient strength to allow prosecution to continue. 
  4. Pre-Trial Conference – This step is for determining the status of the case. The defendant and their counsel can decide whether to take a plea or set a case for trial. In some cases, a continuance may be granted for either or both sides to further investigate or prepare for the upcoming trial. 
  5. Trial – In the state of Florida, any criminal case with the potential penalty of incarceration is granted the right to a jury trial. During trial, the prosecutor(s) will present their evidence for each criminal felony charge. The defense attorney will attempt to poke holes or find inconsistencies with the State’s case. The judge will manage any legal issues during the trial. The jury is then tasked with deliberating (talking about the case details with one another) to decide on a verdict or outcome of the trial. To return a guilty verdict, the jury must reach a unanimous verdict that the State proved its case beyond a reasonable doubt. If the jury is unable to reach a unanimous decision after “considerable deliberation,” then the judge may grant a mistrial and set a new trial date. 
  6. Sentencing – If the jury reaches a unanimous guilty verdict, the next step is sentencing. Depending on the specific circumstances, the sentencing may take place shortly after the trial concludes or at a later date. A defendant who is found guilty will have their sentence announced by the judge. The severity of the sentence is based on factors such as the type of offense for which the defendant was convicted, a defendant’s previous criminal history, and any aggravating elements to the crime such as using a deadly weapon. Examples of punishments which may be imposed at sentencing include:
    1. Fines
    2. Probation
    3. County Jail
    4. State Prison
    5. Drug Treatment Facility 
  7. Appeal – A defendant who wishes to appeal their conviction typically has a 30-day window to file a notice of appeal. It’s important to note that appeals are based on alleged errors that occurred during the trial process that skewed the result against the defendant. An appeal is not a chance to revisit questions of fact that were not raised in the initial trial. A Palm Beach defense attorney can help represent your case and explain the appeals process in more detail. 

Florida’s Statute of Limitations for Felony Offenses 

The Statute of Limitations is the specific period granted to bring civil or criminal charges. In criminal cases, the prosecution can only charge a person with a crime within a specific time frame after the crime occurred. 

Florida Statute Section 775.15 explains the general time limits for filing each type of felony offense: 

  • Capital felony, life felony, or any felony resulting in the death of another person – No Statute of Limitations, meaning prosecution can be commenced at any time. Examples include: 
    • Murder;
    • Human trafficking; and/or
    • Sexual battery of a minor where it was committed on or after July 1, 2020.
  • First-degree felony – 4 years, meaning prosecution must be commenced within 4 years of the crime being committed. 
  • Any other felony – 3 years, meaning prosecution must be commenced within 3 years of the crime being committed. 

There are several criminal offenses in Florida that have specific Statutes of Limitations that are typically more severe than the general rule explained above. Examples include: 

  • Lying under oath during a capital felony case: This second-degree felony has no Statute of Limitations.
  • Felony involving the use of a destructive device resulting in injury: The Statute of Limitations is 10 years.
  • First-degree or second-degree felony abuse or neglect of an elderly or disabled adult: The Statute of Limitations is 5 years.
  • Certain types of fraud such as Medicaid or insurance fraud: The Statute of Limitations is 5 years.
  • Felony violation under Chapter 403 on environmental control: The Statute of Limitations is 5 years.

Find a Palm Beach Felony Defense Attorney Near Me

If you have recently been arrested for a felony offense in Palm Beach County or the surrounding area, do not hesitate to contact the skilled West Palm Beach criminal defense attorneys at the Law Offices of Ian Goldstein. One of our experienced attorneys can help determine which defenses or exceptions to Florida law may be used to get your charges reduced or dismissed. 

Call our office today at (561) 600-0950 to receive a free consultation to review the felony accusations you are facing.