There are a variety of potential criminal charges in Florida that qualify as misdemeanor offenses. Generally there are two levels of misdemeanors; First Degree misdemeanors, potentially punishable by up to a year in the County jail, and Second Degree misdemeanors, which can carry a maximum sentence of 60 days. There are some non specified misdemeanors, such as reckless driving, where the maximum penalty may fall between the two.
While the court procedures and process is similar in both misdemeanor and felony prosecutions, there are a few crucial distinctions. For instance, the inherent right to a speedy trial, i.e. the right to be brought to trial within a specified period of time, unless waived, is reduced to 90 days in most misdemeanor cases, as opposed to 175 days in felony matters. Additionally, there are some limitations in the discovery process when investigating your case, such as limitations on the method in which a deposition may be taken from a witness in the case.
When it comes to the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Federal and State of Florida Constitution, there is little difference between Felony and misdemeanor prosecutions. However, it is important to note that in some circumstances where the exposure to jail time is limited, you may not have a right to a jury trial, resulting in the case being tried before a judge. Also, there are some instances when the State declines to seek incarceration, which could affect a person's right to the appointment of counsel in the event that they would otherwise qualify for the services of a public defender.
Early intervention by an experienced attorney in your case can be extremely beneficial to ensure that your rights are adequately protected. It often helps to have experienced counsel to be involved early in negotiations in the case, and to properly advise you on potential consequences of a conviction.
Convictions in misdemeanor offenses in certain circumstances can have an impact on your driver's license, occupational licenses, and result in other collateral ramifications. People who do not have legal status in the United States, or are involved in the process of immigration to the U.S. must be very cautious about potential criminal convictions, including misdemeanor convictions, as they may effect immigration status, or in some instances result in deportation.
A person who has been arrested for driving under the influence will have their driver's license suspended in accordance with Florida's Implied Consent Law. This suspension is an administrative suspense that occurs outside the Court case itself, and is handled directly by the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. A petition to invalidate or challenge the suspension can be filed with the DHSMV, but it must be filed within ten days of the arrest to preserve your right to contest the suspension.
In certain cases, generally where the person charged with a crime has no prior record, the State Attorney's office may offer enrollment in internal diversion program as a potential resolution to the case. State sponsored diversion often requires a program fee in addition to the participant completing requirements such as community service, or paying restitution to the alleged victim. The potential eligibility for diversion and specific requirements depend on the specific case and are solely at the discretion of the Office of the State Attorney. If a person is eligible and successfully completes diversion, the Office of the State Attorney will drop the charges against the defendant upon successful completion.