Misdemeanor Lawyer in Miami, FL

Although a misdemeanor (also known as a petty crime) is less severe than a felony crime, it is still a criminal charge. You need an experienced misdemeanor lawyer in Miami on your side to ensure that your rights are protected and to provide you with the best defense strategies. Being arrested or charged with any crime is extremely serious for many people who have never had contact with the criminal justice system. A criminal conviction can significantly affect one’s personal life, career, and immigration status if not a U.S. citizen. For many, a criminal record is simply not an option. As criminal defense attorneys, we understand your misdemeanor case is serious, regardless of how it is classified or compared to other cases.

What is a Misdemeanor in Florida?

Most misdemeanor prosecutions occur in state court, although it is possible to be charged with a minor federal crime in federal court.

Florida separates misdemeanors into two classes: misdemeanors of the first-degree and second-degree. These degree classifications determine the maximum penalties you can face. Second-degree misdemeanors generally have a maximum jail sentence of 60 days, while a defendant with first-degree petty crime typically faces a maximum jail time of up to one year in county jail.

Under Florida law, any jail sentence of a year or less is served in county jail. Because a misdemeanor sentence cannot exceed a year in jail, convicted defendants sentenced to any term of imprisonment will always serve that sentence in county jail. Only defendants convicted of felonies—who receive a punishment greater than a year—are sentenced to Florida state prison. Fines for a felony criminal conviction are also generally higher than for misdemeanors.

Misdemeanor vs Felony

Sometimes, the difference between a crime being a felony or a misdemeanor is a matter of degree. For example, theft crimes are usually classified as grand theft (felony) or petit theft (misdemeanor) based on the value of the property allegedly stolen. On the other hand, some types of offenses, like fraud crimes, are always felonies, while other crimes are always misdemeanors.

Misdemeanor Maximum Sentences

Degree Jail  Probation Fine
First  1 year1 year$1,000
Second60 days6 months $500

See Florida Statutes, Sec. 775.082(4)(a)& (b).

Arrest for Misdemeanor Must Be in Officer’s Presence

As a general rule, a police officer can only arrest someone for a misdemeanor crime if it occurs in their presence or they are in “fresh pursuit.”  There are many exceptions, however. These exceptions are listed in Florida Statute Section 901.15 and include arrests for domestic violence, battery, traffic offense in some circumstances, assault on a law enforcement officer, criminal mischief, and shoplifting. Regardless of whether the officer is present, all arrests must be based upon probable cause.

When a police officer decides not to arrest a person but still wants to charge them with a crime, they can issue the defendant a “notice to appear.” In practice, the officer uses the same form regardless of arresting the defendant or giving them the notice to appear. There is simply a place in the bottom right-hand corner of the arrest affidavit where the defendant must sign if the officer is issuing them a notice to appear. Sometimes, misdemeanor cases can begin with a summons instead of a notice to appear. The summons is usually a court notice the accused receives in the mail ordering them to appear in court. Most federal prosecutions begin with a summons instead of an arrest.

Other Important Misdemeanor Differences from Felonies

Misdemeanor cases also differ from felonies because Florida criminal law doesn’t usually permit the defense attorney to take depositions of the State’s witnesses. A deposition is essentially a sworn statement. Like all rules, though, there are exceptions. If the criminal defense attorney can show the judge there is “good cause” to take depositions, then the judge should allow them. The defendant is also entitled to take depositions if the prosecutor takes statements of witnesses the defense has listed in their defense. The time the prosecutor has to bring an accused to trial in a misdemeanor case is much shorter than in a felony case. While a prosecutor has 180 days to get a defendant to trial in a felony case, the prosecutor must get a person charged with only misdemeanors to trial within 90 days. It’s vital that the criminal lawyer you choose for your legal representation is experienced and has the knowledge to defend a criminal offense properly. You have a lot at stake.

What Courts Hear Misdemeanors?

Florida’s state court system is divided into two tiers: county courts and circuit courts. County courts generally have jurisdiction over misdemeanors, and circuit courts have jurisdiction over felonies. Circuit courts can also hear misdemeanors if they come out of the same circumstances as a felony that is charged. On the other hand, county courts never have jurisdiction over felony crimes.

Misdemeanor Charges in Florida

Our criminal defense law firm regularly represents people charged with:

More Misdemeanor Resources

Contact an Experienced Misdemeanor Crimes Attorney

Over the years, our Miami misdemeanor crimes attorneys have represented thousands of clients with a wide range of misdemeanor charges in Miami-Dade County. Our criminal defense attorneys have helped countless people put their misdemeanor cases behind them and move on with their lives. There is a good chance that we have represented people in a similar situation who shared many of your needs and concerns. By taking immediate action by hiring an experienced Miami misdemeanor