Criminal Law in Florida
In Florida and throughout the country, criminal law is established by the law of the state, and thus is state-specific. Property
crimes and assault are the most commonly seen crimes in Florida.
Classifying Florida's Crimes: Felony or Misdemeanor?
Florida law treats felonies, such as violent crimes, sex offenses and theft, as the most serious kinds of charges. Felonies are
punishable by death or more than one year in state prison, and fines up to $15,000.
Less serious misconduct, with fines of up to $1,000, are misdemeanors. They may result in jail time. Shoplifting, marijuana
possession and impaired driving are common examples. But a third DUI conviction is a felony.
Florida has a .08 percent blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) limit. The first conviction can bring up to six months in jail (nine if a
minor's safety was threatened or BAC is .15 or higher), a driving suspension and a hefty fine. Penalties increase with additional
Federal Criminal Law as Precedent for Some Crimes in Florida
White-collar crimes bring federal precedent into Florida's criminal law sphere. These crimes are committed by people in positions
of responsibility over others’ assets, generally money. White-collar crimes are normally felonies. Convictions may bar the accused
from applying for positions of similar trust in the future.
The Florida Senate expressly indicates that fraud crimes discovered in the state will be prosecuted through the legal precedent
supplied by the U.S. federal government's statutes addressing mail fraud and wire fraud.
Fraud can involve falsifying corporate data, forgery or counterfeiting, credit service and credit card crimes, improper use of
communications (mail, wire and advanced technology), and other acts. Other white-collar crimes include embezzlement, a form
of theft, and money laundering — the movement of ill-gotten gains from one institution to the next, with the intention of
covering up the unlawful origin of the assets.
Rights of People Suspected of Committing a Crime in Florida
Under Florida law, a police officer with reasonable suspicion that a person may be involved in a crime may request identification
and an explanation of the person's presence at a scene, yet may not move the person involuntarily from the scene except through
An officer who has reasonable safety fears may frisk a suspect's clothing for weapons. The officer may not undertake a more
intrusive search without good cause. (A person need not consent to a search if simply asked.)
Yet a frisk can lead to a permitted search. And if that search turns up contraband, arrest may follow.
After arrest, a person has the Constitutional right to remain silent to avert self-incrimination. The officer must read the Miranda
warning, and is obliged by law to discontinue the interrogation if the arrestee unequivocally asks for a lawyer.
A person facing criminal charges may plead not guilty before a judge and jury. This, in some cases, results in a dismissal of the
charges. Alternatively, a plea bargain — pleading guilty to a charge in return for a less harsh sentence — may bring the best
A lawyer experienced in defending clients in criminal cases can review the facts and offer case-specific advice. For more
information, or to arrange a consultation, contact us.