Florida Criminal Law



Provided by
Attorney David Joffe Attorney David Joffe

Joffe Law Offices Joffe Law
Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33301
(952) 913-1421

Joffe Law, P.A. is a criminal defense firm based in Fort Lauderdale and serving clients throughout Florida. Practice areas encompass drug charges, robbery, cyberstalking, kidnapping, international crimes, alien smuggling, DUI, firearms charges, sexual assault and abuse, fraud, and other white collar crimes, including money laundering, bribery, RICO and insider trading charges, and embezzlement, as well as appeals and post-conviction relief.
Criminal Law Florida

Individuals who are charged with a criminal offense in Florida should have a strong understanding of the criminal justice system and the possible defenses that they may be able to raise.

Criminal Law

The purpose of criminal law is to prevent acts that harm others and to establish penalties for these acts. Individuals who are aware of the potential consequences of a conviction may decide not to commit the criminal act in order to avoid serious penalties. In this way, criminal laws serve as a deterrent to committing crimes. It is possible for a person to commit a crime and be prosecuted by the federal government. However, this is more likely to occur when the crime involves the federal government or crossing interstate lines. Most crimes are charged at the state level. States are free to pass their own laws so long as they are constitutional.

Classification of Crimes

Crimes in Florida are divided into two general categories: felonies and misdemeanors. Of the two, misdemeanors are considered less serious. The maximum penalty for a misdemeanor crime is up to one year in jail and a fine up to $1,000. In many situations, misdemeanors do not result in any imprisonment. If a jail sentence is imposed, the defendant generally goes to the county jail. There are also noncriminal violations that usually involve a fine, such as traffic violations or a public nuisance citation. In contrast, felonies are considered more serious. Florida felonies are punishable by imprisonment of more than one year and a fine up to $15,000. When sentenced to imprisonment, the defendant goes to the state prison.

Some crimes may be considered misdemeanors or felonies. These crimes are called “wobblers.” The prosecution may have the discretion of determining whether to charge the offense as a felony or misdemeanor. The individual circumstances involved in the crime may also impact which type of crime is ultimately charged against the defendant.

Specific Crimes

Specific offenses that are considered criminal are outlined in Florida’s criminal code. Felony crimes involve such offenses as aggravated assault and battery, burglary, robbery, sex crimes, manslaughter, theft crimes, kidnapping, arson, murder and drug offenses. Misdemeanor crimes encompass such offenses as petty theft, the possession of a small amount of marijuana, shoplifting, reckless driving and public intoxication.

DUI Laws

Florida prohibits driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The legal blood alcohol content level is 0.08 percent. However, a person can also be cited for this offense if he or she was influenced by drugs or prescription medication. The first DUI conviction that a person receives can result in a driver’s license suspension of at least six months and up to six months in jail. If a minor was in the vehicle, the maximum jail time is nine months in jail. Additionally, the defendant may be required to pay a fine of up to $500. Penalties increase with subsequent convictions.

Capital Punishment

Florida law does recognize capital punishment. Defendants who face capital charges can be sentenced to death in the state of Florida. These offenses are often considered the most heinous and include such crimes as murder and capital drug trafficking. A criminal defendant can be sentenced to lethal injection or electrocution. If not given a death sentence, a criminal defendant can be sentenced to life imprisonment.

Sex Offender Registration

If a person is convicted of a sex crime in Florida, such as child molestation, child pornography, sexual battery or other felony sex crime including life crimes or capital crimes, he or she will have to register as a sex offender. Sex offender registration requires the defendant to provide current updates on where he or she lives and works. Sex offenders are often limited to where they can work, often not being allowed to work with children or the infirm. Additionally, sex offender registration may impact a person’s housing options since they cannot be too close to schools or other locations where there are more children. Neighbors and community members can look for registered sex offenders and pinpoint the defendant’s location with current technology.

Criminal Procedure

Criminal defendants should be aware of criminal procedure in Florida and contact a criminal defense lawyer as early in the process as possible. The specific criminal process depends on the nature of the charges and the procedures in the jurisdiction. The beginning of the criminal procedure process begins with law enforcement’s investigation of the crime. Law enforcement officers are called to a scene of a crime. They may collect evidence there. They may ask neighbors or other individuals if they witnessed the crime. Using this information, law enforcement officers may ask for a search warrant. This warrant may be to gather additional information about the victim. In other cases, it may be to investigate the residence or vehicle of the person suspected of committing the crime.

If law enforcement narrows in on a suspect, law enforcement may bring the defendant to the police department to interrogate him or her. During formal interrogation, law enforcement officers must carefully follow criminal procedures or they risk having incriminating statements or evidence suppressed in the case.

If law enforcement believes that it has adequate probable cause to support an arrest of the defendant, they may arrest the defendant. Additional procedural requirements must be followed while a defendant is arrested. The arresting officer should read the defendant his or her Miranda rights, detailing his or her right to remain silent and to be afforded a lawyer. If an officer later tries to intimidate a suspect or force him or her to talk, it may be possible for the criminal defendant to assert improper police conduct as a way to suppress incriminating evidence against him or her. Most criminal defendants can benefit from refusing to talk to law enforcement and insisting on talking to a criminal defense lawyer.

If the prosecutor determines to file charges, the defendant must appear in court for his or her arraignment. Here, the defendant typically pleads not guilty. Bail decisions must also be made. The defendant may be released from custody and may be required to secure a bond. In other cases, the criminal defendant may be released on his or her own recognizance. In other situations, the defendant is ordered to remain in jail pending the trial. The decision regarding bail depends on a number of factors, including whether the defendant poses a flight risk and may not appear for the next scheduled court date or if he or she is a danger to society.

Before trial, the criminal defendant’s lawyer may try to negotiate a plea bargain with the prosecutor. This is an agreement in which the defendant pleads guilty in order to receive lesser charges, fewer charges or a lighter sentence. Before trial, a criminal defense lawyer may try to file pre-trial motions in which he or she seeks to suppress evidence or take other action that will have a positive impact on his or her case. These tactics are often conducted in order to get the charges dismissed or reduced.

If a plea agreement is not reached or the charges are not dismissed, the case proceeds to trial. The judge or jury listens to witness testimony and examines evidence. The judge or jury determines whether the defendant is guilty of the crime. If the judge or jury returns a verdict of not guilty, the defendant is usually allowed to go free. However, if the defendant is found guilty of the charge, the defendant is returned to jail to await sentencing. The punishment that is imposed on the defendant is based on the severity of the crime, the defendant’s intent during the commission of the crime and his or her criminal history. The defendant may be able to appeal the decision to a higher court in Florida if mistakes were made during the criminal justice process.

Legal Defenses

There may be a variety of defenses that are available. Some defenses may apply to a variety of different types of cases while in other situations, the defense may only be available in a particular type of case. Some possible legal defenses that may be raised include: Stand Your Ground A law made infamous in Florida, the Stand Your Ground law allows a person to use or threaten to use deadly force in certain situations. This includes if someone intrudes into their home or vehicle when the individual feels reasonably threatened. Additionally, this law does not require the individual to retreat before first asserting deadly force. This legal argument is sometimes made in cases involving self-defense, such as battery, manslaughter or murder.

Innocence Innocence may be argued when the defendant did not commit the crime alleged. He or she may have been accused of a crime when no crime existed, such as in a sexual assault case that was consensual. In other cases, he or she may be mistakenly identified by the victim or another eyewitness.

Procedural Errors The constitution protects the rights of individuals who are being investigated by law enforcement. Law enforcement must carefully follow procedural rules. If law enforcement does not follow proper rules, the evidence against the defendant may be suppressed and prevented from being introduced at trial. For example, law enforcement officers are generally required to obtain a search warrant before searching the defendant’s residence. However, there are exceptions to this general rule, so it is important to talk to a criminal defense lawyer to gather more information about this subject.

Alibi In some cases, the victim or an eyewitness accuses the defendant of summiting some criminal act. However, the defendant may have been at another location or with someone at the time that the crime is alleged to have occurred. A defendant may raise an alibi defense in this type of situation.

Consent Consent may be a valid defense to some types of crimes, including sexual assault cases or breaking and entering cases. The legal argument is that if the alleged victim consented to the defendant’s actions then a crime was not committed. Consent cannot be given in all situations, such as cases involving sexual contact with children or with individuals who lack the mental capacity to provide it.

Lack of Intent Many crimes contain a specific mental state that must be proven in order to convict the defendant. For example, the defendant may be required to “intentionally” or “knowingly” commit some criminal act. If the defendant did not have this level of mental acuity, he or she should not be convicted under the statute.

Not Meeting the Elements Every criminal statute contains elements that the prosecution must prove by proof beyond a reasonable doubt. If any of the elements are missing, the defendant cannot be convicted. A common defense is to assert that the prosecution has “failed to meet its burden,” meaning that the prosecutor did not prove all of the elements of the crime. If the prosecution fails to establish the elements, the defendant need not lodge any further defense.

Legal Assistance Individuals who are facing criminal charges in Florida often contact a criminal defense lawyer for assistance. Lawyers who focus on criminal defense often develop a strong understanding of procedural requirements and can mount a vigorous defense. It is helpful to have the assistance of legal counsel who is familiar with local criminal procedures and the court system. Having a skilled criminal defense lawyer can often mean the difference between going to jail or not or in the amount of time that is ultimately charged. A qualified lawyer can discuss the case, explain the law and explore possible legal options that may be available based on the specific circumstances surrounding the case. Because the consequences of conviction can range tremendously, it is important to contact a lawyer who is willing to devote time and resources into the case. It is also important to contact a lawyer who is prepared to file pre-trial motions and take the case to trial if necessary and to mount the most aggressive defense possible.


Florida Criminal Law Articles

  • Florida Criminal Law: Cultivation of Marijuana

    Florida has a specific law that prohibits the cultivation of marijuana. Individuals who are convicted of this crime face serious penalties. Understanding the nature of these charges can help individuals formulate a defense to them.

  • Florida Criminal Law: Domestic Battery Violence

    Domestic violence is a serious dynamic that happens in all states and crosses all racial, cultural and socioeconomic lines. It occurs when a person is in a certain relationship as defined under state law and inflicts certain physical harm or makes certain threats that rise to a criminal level.

  • Florida Criminal Law: DUI Breath Tests, Mechanics and Defenses

    When someone is stopped for suspicion of drunk driving, it is common for law enforcement to request the driver to take a breath test.

  • Florida Criminal Law: Loitering or Prowling

    One charge that some law enforcement officers pursue when they cannot figure out the type of criminal activity involved is that of loitering or prowling.

  • Florida Criminal Law: Resisting an Officer Without Violence

    In Florida, it is a crime to resist an officer who is carrying out a legal duty such as an arrest even if the resistance is not violent in nature. The elements for the crime can be complex and require a trained legal eye to respond to charges of this nature

  • Florida Molestation and Child Abuse Penalties

    Potential charges of child abuse and molestation are severe crimes with potentially devastating consequences. These issues are taken seriously, and investigations are carefully carried out to ensure those suspected are genuinely guilty.

Criminal Lawyers FL for Every City

  • Criminal Lawyers FL for Every City

    Find Criminal law offices and lawyers in Florida for your city. HG.org includes firms' overview, contact information, services, website, social networks, articles, videos, and more.

Criminal Law Articles by Lawyers Nationwide

  • Georgia Criminal Expungement Rules
    Erasing a criminal record from an ex-convict is difficult and require a lengthy process with many different factors involved. In Georgia, it is almost impossible to erase a criminal past entirely from records of those that have been released from prison, and this could lead to additional problems for those that have already served time.
  • Expert Witness Expectations in Opioid Lawsuits
    Opioids are the common thread in lawsuits where someone brings a case about physical harm due to medication such as pain relievers and pills. Litigation into these matters is frequently complicated and difficult to understand without the use of an expert witness, and these professionals present testimony about the drugs and their effects.
  • How to Use Stories to Distinguish Yourself from Other Criminal Defense Lawyers
    Stories are the best way to communicate with people. We are hardwired to enjoy and respond to stories. Since criminal defense lawyers are such great storytellers, how could they use stories to distinguish themselves from the competition?
  • Differences between Texas Criminal Offenses in Shoplifting and Robbery
    Individuals who are suspected of stealing in Texas may find themselves on the receiving end of property theft charges. These charges may include shoplifting, robbery or other crimes. Robbery and shoplifting have some similarities and many differences. It is important for criminal defendants to understand the nature of the charges against them.
  • Obstructing Identification Crime in Illinois
    Obstructing identification occurs when a person refuses to identify himself or herself to a law enforcement officer when asked. Failing to provide identification can result in a criminal charge and serious consequences.
  • What to Do (and Not to Do) If Stopped by Police in Illinois
    Many individuals experience the uncomfortable encounter of being stopped by police in Illinois. This is usually because the law enforcement officer claims that you have made some type of traffic violation. You may wind up with a ticket. This is bad enough, but it gets even worse for some.
  • Three Strikes - What Does This Mean in Missouri?
    Three strikes laws typically apply to habitual offenders who commit serious felony crimes. Three-strikes and similar laws exist in a little over half of the states in the U.S., including Missouri.
  • Could Missouri's New Expungement Law Help You Clean Up Your Criminal Record?
    Missouri Senate Bill 588 (also referred to as SB 588) goes into effect on January 1st of 2018. If you have been convicted of a crime, how may the passage of this bill affect you? Is it possible you could have your criminal record expunged or essentially erased?
  • I Fled the Scene of an Accident Because I Was Not Licensed – What Now?
    In most states, it is legally required for a person involved in a car accident to stop and report the accident. While there may be some exceptions to this rule, leaving the scene of an accident can be considered a crime and may also subject the responsible party to civil liability. Understanding the potential implications of this act can help people avoid possible legal issues or minimize the impact after the event occurs.
  • Getting Expert Witness Testimony Admitted in Criminal Cases
    Experts witnesses are often indispensable in criminal cases because they provide services that no one else can such as explaining complicated matters and confusing details. New evidence is discovered, guilt is easier to observe and a reconstruction of the incident is possible using an expert witness.



Find a Lawyer

Find a Local Lawyer