Frequently Asked Questions about Florida Criminal Laws, Procedures and Penalties
- How much does it cost to hire an attorney to defend me again my Florida criminal charge?
- What is the difference between a Misdemeanor and a Felony?
- What is a Withhold of Adjudication?
- What is an Ignition Interlock Device?
- If I am convicted (or plead guilty) to a DUI charge, will I have to get a car breathalyzer device (ignition interlock) installed in my car?
- What is a Motor Vehicle Hearing?
There is no one answer, it depends on the complexity of the case, the severity of the charges, and a number of other factors.
However, after speaking to you in a free case evaluation, we will be able to quote you an exact fee. See my criminal defense legal fees page for more details.
A felony conviction carries a penalty of over 1 year in prison, while a Misdemeanor conviction has a maximum penalty of 1 year or less.
Misdemeanor offenses are classified as either:
- Misdemeanor of the first degree, with penalties of up to 1 year in prison
- Misdemeanor of the second degree, with penalties of up to 60 days in jail
Felony offenses are classified as either:
- Felony of the first degree, with penalties of 20 years up to life in prison depending on the nature of the offense (details are laid out in Chapter 775 Section 83 of the Florida criminal statutes)
- Felony of the second degree, with penalties of up to 15 years in prison
- Felony of the third degree, with penalties of up to 5 years in prison
Also see our criminal procedures page.
A Withhold of Adjudication, also known as a deferred prosecution is a chance to have your record kept clean and no conviction entered if you complete the terms of your probation. If the court agrees to the deal, and you complete all the agreed upon terms and programs, the conviction is removed. No criminal conviction will appear on your record.
Typically, these deals are available for first-time offenders who have never been in trouble before, and for minor misdemeanor charges. But it is possible to get a withhold of adjudication in Florida, even for a felony offense.
An ignition interlock is an electronic device that checks if you have consumed any alcohol before allowing you to start your car. It is essentially a breathalyzer device connected to your car’s ignition.
It is a required penalty for some drunk driving convictions (see below). There is a monthly fee and maintenance process required.
On a first offense, an interlock ignition device is part of the punishment if you are considered a high BAC offender (over .15 BAC as of 7/1/09), known as an enhanced penalty. An interlock device is also required for any multiple offense conviction.
See my DUI penalties page for more info.
UPDATE: Under the new law, as of July 1, 2009 anyone convicted of a 1st offense DUI who registers a BAC of .15 or higher, or almost twice the legal limit, will be required to get the device installed in his or her car for 6 months.
(The old “Enhanced BAC” DUI Law prior to July required a level of .20.)
Also note this dissenting view on the harshness of Florida DUI penalties on regular, hard working citizens.
A motor vehicle hearing is an administrative (not criminal) hearing held at the Florida DMV to protect your license after it has been suspended for failing or refusing a breath test from a DUI arrest.
You have 10 days to request a hearing.
The hearing must be scheduled within 30 days of the arrest.
If you do not choose to challenge your license suspension, for a 1st offense DUI charge, your license will be suspended for:
- a minimum of 6 months if you failed a breath or chemical test (above .08 BAC)
- a minimum of 12 months if you refused to take a test to determine your BAC
If you’ve been charged with a criminal offense in the state of Florida, please contact us for a legal consultation on your situation, and we’ll let you know what we can do to help. (877) 394-6959