Florida Felony Crimes Classification and Statutory Penalties for Felony Crimes

June 26, 2024 Criminal Defense, Drug Charges, Theft/Property Crimes, Violent Crimes

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Before October 31, 1998, the Florida Criminal Punishment Code consisted of restrictions on the maximum and minimum penalties for felonies of various types in Florida. On that day, Florida’s Legislature changed the criminal punishment code to allow a judge in their discretion to give – without any reason either written or otherwise – the maximum penalty for each felony crime classification.

Under Florida Statutes Section 775.081, the five felony crimes classifications in Florida include:

  • Capital felonies: punishable by life in prison without the possibility of parole or the death penalty
  • Life felonies: punishable by life in prison and a fine of up to $15,000
  • First-degree felonies: punishable by up to thirty years in prison
  • Second-degree felonies: punishable by up to fifteen years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000
  • Third-degree felonies: punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.

Capital Felonies in Florida

Capital felonies in Florida consist of only a handful of felonies – many of which are not capital felonies at the typical level they’re charged. If someone is charged with a capital felony, they are eligible to receive the death penalty as a sentence. However, not all capital felony charges – if an individual is found guilty – will inevitably lead to receiving the death penalty. Some offenders instead receive life in prison.

Examples of capital felonies include: 

First-degree (premeditated) murder can be charged as a capital felony under Florida Statute Section 782.04. If individuals killed are law enforcement officers, government workers, or the victim was murdered in a premeditated fashion that particularly shocks the conscience – prosecutors are more likely to seek capital murder charges. 

However, the remainder of the list of capital felonies do not start as capital felonies. Rather, they reach the level of a capital felony under certain circumstances because they are “enhanceable offenses.” In Florida, an enhanceable offense is an offense that can be upgraded to a more serious charge if there are found to be certain aggravating circumstances during its commission. Assault, battery, sexual battery, kidnapping and drug trafficking are all examples of enhanceable offenses that can reach the level of a capital felony in certain circumstances. 

In 2023, the Florida Legislature upgraded sexual battery under Florida Statutes Section 794.011 by a person 18 years or older to a capital felony, if the victim is a minor under 12 years old. The maximum possible sentence for this offense was previously life in prison. This speaks to the fact that while Florida has five classifications of felonies, felonies in each category do occasionally change.

Another example of a capital felony is drug trafficking. While not all drug trafficking is a capital offense – and penalties for drug trafficking span throughout the felony classifications – there are certain drug trafficking charges that can qualify as capital felonies. For example, trafficking over 150 kilograms of cocaine resulting in someone’s death is a capital felony under Florida Statutes Section 893.135.

Capital felony charges are the most serious felony charges someone can face in Florida.

Life Felony

A life felony charge is one step down from a capital felony. As the name suggests, a life felony is a felony for which an individual may face a sentence of up to life in prison. Examples of offenses that may be charged as life felonies under Florida law include:

Just because someone is charged with a life felony does not mean they will receive life in prison if convicted. However, if someone is part of the prisoner releasee reoffender (PRR) program after getting out of prison and commits a life felony – they will automatically be sentenced to life in prison if found guilty.

First-Degree Felony

First-degree felonies are generally punishable by up to 30 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. These can include:

While some of the offenses, such as aggravated child abuse, are classified as first-degree felonies – others are enhanceable offenses that may rise to a first-degree felony. For example, trafficking in stolen goods is typically charged as a second-degree felony. However, those found to be supervising or orchestrating such trafficking schemes may face first-degree felony charges.

Second-Degree Felonies

Examples of second-degree felonies under the Florida Criminal Punishment Code include:

Second-degree felonies are punishable by up to 15 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. 

Third-Degree Felonies

Third-degree felonies are punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a $5,000 fine. These include:

Florida’s Sentencing Guidelines

According to Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure Rule 3.701(b), the purpose of the sentencing guidelines is to establish a uniform set of standards to guide the sentencing judge in the sentence decision-making process. The guidelines represent a synthesis of current sentencing theory and historic sentencing practices throughout the state. Sentencing guidelines are intended to eliminate unwarranted variation in the sentencing process by reducing the subjectivity in interpreting specific offense-related and offender-related criteria and in defining their relative importance in the sentencing decision. The sentencing guidelines embody the following principles:

Sentencing should be neutral with respect to race, gender, and social and economic status.

The primary purpose of sentencing is to punish the offender. Rehabilitation and other traditional considerations may also play a role in sentencing.  To learn more about the sentencing guidelines now that you know the classifications of felonies in Florida.  Check back here to our blog and we will do a simple but detailed analysis of the Florida Sentencing Guidelines.

Former Prosecutor, Former State Police Officer, Lifetime Member of the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers; for almost 25 years as a private defense attorney who is Trusted, Experienced, Aggressive in Criminal Defense as a Trial Attorney, Criminal Lawyer, Criminal Defense Lawyer for the accused in Florida State Courts located in Tallahassee, Florida but handling cases throughout the State of Florida.

Find a Criminal Defense Lawyer in Tallahassee, FL

As a former prosecutor, former state police officer and a life member of the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Don Pumphrey Jr. has observed that being arrested anywhere in Florida can be extremely stressful. Being charged and “formally charged” by information in Tallahassee or Leon County, Wakulla County, Jefferson County, Gadsden County, Quincy, Crawfordville, Florida State University, Florida State University Campus, Florida State University Student Code of Conduct, Tallahassee Community College, Florida A&M University, or facing first appearance in Leon County, can be life changing. Given the possibility of a lengthy jail or in some cases lengthy prison sentence and hefty financial penalties, it is important to contact an aggressive, trusted and experienced Tallahassee criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.

Don Pumphrey, Jr. and the attorneys at Pumphrey Law have decades of experience fighting on behalf of clients and winning. Call Pumphrey Law now at (850) 681-7777 to learn more about what we can do for you. Our lawyers will be happy to provide you with a free consultation.

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