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Understanding The Difference Between A First Degree Misdemeanor And A Second-Degree Misdemeanor In Florida


A misdemeanor is less serious than a felony. That is not to say that a misdemeanor is a minor issue. In Florida, misdemeanor charges include crimes that could result in up to one year in jail. Our state has two classifications of misdemeanor offenses:

  • First degree misdemeanor; and
  • Second degree misdemeanor.

In this article, our Orlando misdemeanor defense lawyer highlights the most important things you should know about the difference between first degree misdemeanor charges and second degree misdemeanor charges in Florida.

The Primary Difference: Penalties for a Misdemeanor Offense 

The classification of a misdemeanor matters. In Florida, the main difference between a first degree misdemeanor charge and a second degree misdemeanor charge is the maximum penalties. If you are convicted of a first degree misdemeanor in Florida, you could be sentenced to up to one year in jail and face a maximum $1,000 fine. It is the more serious of the two classifications. In contrast, a second degree misdemeanor offense is a criminal charge that carries a maximum of 60 days in jail and a $500 fine. Of course, a conviction for either type of misdemeanor in Florida will end up on your criminal record. 

The Statute of Limitations Varies Based on Classification of the Offense 

Most criminal charges in Florida are subject to a statute of limitations. In effect, this means that prosecutors do not have an unlimited amount of time to file charges. They need to make a decision in a reasonably timely manner, otherwise the charges can no longer be pursued on statutory grounds. Under Florida law (Florida Statutes § 775.15), the statute of limitations is different for the two types of misdemeanor offenses:

  • First Degree Misdemeanor: Two year statute of limitations.
  • Second Degree Misdemeanor: One year statute of limitations. 

Be Proactive: Do Not Take a Misdemeanor Criminal Charge Lightly 

It would be a huge mistake to view a misdemeanor criminal charge as a minor issue. A conviction can have serious consequences. Beyond any direct criminal penalties—which can be up to one year in jail for a first degree misdemeanor—a conviction could also lead to a permanent criminal record that can negatively impact your future job prospects, housing options, and overall reputation. Protect yourself: Consult with an experienced Orlando criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible after an arrest. A knowledgeable attorney can guide you through the legal process, handle all of the correspondence with the prosecution, and take action to fight for a favorable outcome in your case. 

Set Up a Confidential Consultation With a Top Orlando, FL Misdemeanor Defense Attorney

At The Baez Law Firm, our Orlando criminal defense lawyer has the legal skills and proven professional expertise to handle the full spectrum of misdemeanor charges. If you or your loved one was arrested and charged with a first degree misdemeanor or second degree misdemeanor, we can help. Contact us today for a fully private initial appointment. From our Orlando office, our firm provides criminal defense representation in Orange County and throughout all of Central Florida.

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