Misdemeanors in Florida
St. Petersburg Misdemeanor Criminal Lawyer / Clearwater Attorneys Experienced in Defending Misdemeanor Charges
How are Misdemeanors Handled in Pinellas County?
Misdemeanors in Florida are handled in “County Court” by a County Court judge. (Whereas felonies are heard in Circuit Court and must be presided over by a Circuit Court judge.) Because misdemeanors are criminal offenses, it is important to choose an experienced St. Petersburg misdemeanor criminal lawyer to consult to discuss all of your options.
In Pinellas County, we have five separate misdemeanor divisions which are located on the third floor of our criminal justice center. Each of these misdemeanor divisions is assigned a particular Pinellas County Court judge.When you are arrested or charged with a misdemeanor offense in St. Petersburg, Clearwater, or another part of Pinellas County, the Clerk of the Court assigns you to a specific misdemeanor division. Those divisions are designated with the following letters: “E,” “F,” “G,” “H,” or “L.” This permanent misdemeanor division assignment stays with you should you ever face another misdemeanor charge arising out of St. Petersburg, Clearwater, or another area in Pinellas County in the future. The spirit or purpose behind this administrative policy is to make an effort for you to appear back before the same Pinellas County judge on any new or subsequent misdemeanor offense. Learn who your Pinellas County Criminal Court Judge is here.
What Exactly is a Misdemeanor in Florida Charge?
Many people new to the criminal justice system do not fully appreciate how serious being charged with a misdemeanor offense can be. They are so “conditioned” into hearing the term “felony” that they often underestimate the true ramifications of facing a misdemeanor offense. However, it is important to remember that although a misdemeanor is not as serious as a felony offense, it is still nevertheless a “criminal charge.” Unlike “civil infractions” or most “local ordinance violations,” misdemeanors carry jail time.
Misdemeanors in Florida are broken down into two distinct categories. A “first degree” misdemeanor is punishable by up to one year in the Pinellas County jail and up to a $1,000.00 fine. Whereas, a “second degree” misdemeanor is punishable by up to only sixty days in the Pinellas County jail and up to a $500.00 fine. Note, however, that although a person convicted of a misdemeanor could face incarceration in the Pinellas County jail, they could not be sentenced to state prison. An example of a first degree misdemeanor is “possession of under twenty grams of marijuana,” whereas an example of a second degree misdemeanor is “disorderly conduct.”
Unlike Circuit Court Judges who must wrestle with mandatory sentencing ranges dictated by Florida’s Criminal Punishment Code, Pinellas County Court Judges have broad discretion in sentencing matters. Thus, a county court judge sentencing someone convicted of a misdemeanor offense that occurred in St. Petersburg, Clearwater, or other area of Pinellas County can impose a sentence of as little as one day probation and as much as 365 days incarceration within the Pinellas County jail. In other words, because there are no “Florida misdemeanor sentencing guidelines,” the sentencing judge has the latitude to impose the minimum penalty up to the maximum penalty in every misdemeanor case that comes before him.
Misdemeanors in Florida Can Carry Other Ramifications
Some misdemeanors can carry the same licensing or employment ramifications as felonies. For example, being charged in St. Petersburg, Clearwater, or other part of Pinellas County with “petit theft,” “retail theft,” “defrauding an innkeeper,” “theft of utilities,” or “issuing a worthless check” are examples of offenses reflecting on one’s untruthfulness or dishonesty. Convictions for these types of offenses can often be the basis for the denial of licensing or employment. In the alternative, they can form the basis of termination from employment. (School teachers, County/City employees, Real Estate Sales People, Nurses, stock brokers, and others holding positions of trust or fiduciary relationships with members of the public are such examples.)
Being convicted of these types of misdemeanor offenses could also cast doubt on your credibility in the future. For instance, if you were ever testifying in court, the attorney representing the opposing party would be permitted to say to you: “we have heard your side of the story…but isn’t it true that you have previously been convicted of an offense involving untruthfulness or dishonesty?” Just imagine the effect this question could have on the weight given your testimony in a subsequent divorce, personal injury or other litigated matter.
Could a Misdemeanor Conviction Result in the Suspension of my Drivers License?
By statute, a conviction for some misdemeanor offenses will result in the immediate and automatic suspension by DHSMV of your privilege to drive for a two year period. Examples of these include “possession of under twenty grams of marijuana” and “solicitation for prostitution.” This collateral penalty can carry serious consequences for someone whose employment is predicated on their ability to lawfully operate a motor vehicle.
Could a Misdemeanor Conviction Affect my Ability to Possess a Firearm?
A conviction for some misdemeanor offenses can result in you forever being banned by Federal law from owning, using, or possessing a firearm. It could also form the basis of a revocation of licensure of your “concealed weapon” permit.
How a St. Petersburg Misdemeanor Criminal Lawyer From Russo, Pelletier & Sullivan Can Help
A St. Petersburg Misdemeanor Criminal Lawyer from our office may be able to help you minimize or even avoid many of the consequences associated with a first or second degree misdemeanor charge arising out of St. Petersburg, Clearwater, or other part of Pinellas County. Depending on your situations, we may be able to:
- Intervene early with the Pinellas County State Attorney’s Office and convince the prosecutor to not file charges, or to file a less serious charge then the one currently pending.
- Where appropriate, take steps to make application to a “diversion program” on your behalf. Successful completion of the diversion program would result in the judge dismissing the charge against you.
- Provide facts and “mitigating” evidence presenting you in a more positive light to the Pinellas County Court judge hearing your case.
- Negotiate with the prosecutor and the court in an effort to secure a “withhold of adjudication.” Resolving your misdemeanor charge by securing a withhold of adjudication could be highly beneficial. You could thereafter truthfully state that you were not convicted of the charge.
- At the conclusion of your case, petition the court to seal or expunge all of the records related to your arrest.
Clearly, any criminal charge is a complex and serious matter. At this critical time, you need the advice of a qualified St. Petersburg / Clearwater attorney. Call our office for a free initial consultation at (727) 578-0303
Russo, Pelletier & Sullivan are St. Petersburg Misdemeanor Criminal Lawyer / Clearwater criminal defense attorneys who Handle All Misdemeanor Offenses arising out of Pinellas County, Florida, including the following offenses:
|Accessory||Improper Tag, Expired Tag|
|Animal Cruelty||Leaving the Scene of an Accident|
|Assault||Lewd and Lascivious Act|
|Battery||Loitering and Prowling|
|Carrying a Concealed Weapon||Obstruction of Justice|
|Contributing to the Deliquency of a Minor||Obtaining Property with a Worthless Check|
|Criminal Mischief||Possession of Alcoholic by Person under 21|
|Culpable Negligence||Possession of Drug Paraphernalia|
|Disorderly Conduct||Possession of Marijuana|
|Driver’s License Violations||Reckless Driving|
|Discharge of a Firearm in Public||Resisting an Officer without Violence|
|Disorderly Intoxication||Sale of an Alcoholic Beverage to a Minor|
|Domestic Battery||Solicitation of Prostitution|
|Driving Under the Influence||Stalking|
|DUI, DWI||Trespass in a Structure or Conveyance|
|Driving While License Suspended or Revoked||Trespass in an Occupied Dwelling|
|Exposure of Sexual Organs||Violation of Domestic Violence Injunction|
|False Report of a Crime||Violation of Misdemeanor Probation|
|Improper Exhibition of Firearm||Voyuerism|