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FLORIDA FELONIES, MISDEMEANORS AND VIOLATIONS OF PROBATION

Many of my clients who are arrested for the first time are often confused about the nature of their and the arrest and the consequences that they face. Florida Misdemeanors are by their nature, less severe than felonies. Misdemeanors are punishable by a maximum of 364 days in jail. Florida Felonies are the more serious crimes and can have a maximum sentence of life in prison (leaving aside Murder cases and death sentences) with a minimum prison term of a year and a day, if there is a prison sentence. Not every conviction requires jail or prison. Probation is often a possibility.

Most first-time Florida misdemeanor offenders usually receive a sentence that requires the paying of money (commonly called Court Costs). Sometimes a fine is added to Court Costs. Some misdemeanor offenders may be placed on probation. Most first-time Florida felony offenders,( if the offense is not too serious) will also be placed on probation and be required to pay Court Costs which can be in the hundreds of dollars. Probation itself carries a monthly fee which is used to pay the costs of your supervision( C.O.S) by the Department of Corrections

Probation requires that you follow a set of rules that governs your behavior. For example, you must report to the probation office once a month; you may not possess a firearm while on probation; you may not change your address without notifying your probation officer. These rules are not complicated, but failure to obey them can result in a Violation of Probation warrant for your arrest.

A Florida violation of probation (often referred to as a V.O.P) is a dangerous situation. The burden of proof to prove you violated your probation is far less than "proof beyond a reasonable doubt" which is the standard to prove you guilty in a trial. Prosecutors have a much easier time proving a V.O.P. than proving guilt at trial. While V.O.P.s are defensible, the prosecutors have a distinct advantage as they only need to show you broke probation by "the greater weight, or the preponderance of the evidence". The danger of a probation violation is that you can be punished up to the maximum sentence you could have received originally.

While being placed on Florida probation seems like a good way to avoid going to prison, it is to be taken most seriously. The upside of successfully being on probation is that some probationers can be allowed to "Early Term", that is, end probation after doing one half of the probation term. It requires that you have respected all the probation requirements without any violations, and that you have paid all Court Cost and C.O.S. The downside of a violation may also result in your being convicted of the original felony leaving you as a convicted felon, with all the negative results that a convicted felon faces.

A detailed discussion of all these matters is best left to you and your attorney so that the consequences of your case and possible outcomes are clear to you before you make a final decision how to handle the resolution of your case. You need to have everything about your case explained to you so that your choice on how to proceed is an informed one.



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