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  • Writer's pictureWilliam Matthews

Exploring Different Types of Criminal Charges: Understanding Consequences and Defenses

Updated: Aug 22, 2023

Criminal charges are categorized into various types, each carrying distinct consequences and potential defenses. From misdemeanors to felonies, the legal landscape surrounding these charges can be complex and daunting. This blog post aims to provide an overview of different types of criminal charges from the perspective of an Orlando, Florida criminal defense attorney, the potential consequences they entail, and the defenses that can be employed.

1. Misdemeanors: Misdemeanors are less serious offenses compared to felonies. They typically involve less severe punishments and shorter jail sentences. Examples include petty theft, simple assault, and public intoxication. Penalties for misdemeanors can include fines, probation, community service, and short jail terms, usually less than one year. In Orlando, Florida, there are first and second degree misdemeanors. First degree misdemeanors are punishable by up to 364 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. Second degree misdemeanors are punishable by up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine.

Defenses for Misdemeanors:

  • Lack of Intent: If the defendant did not intend to commit the crime, this can be a strong defense.

  • Self-Defense: If the defendant can prove that they acted in self-defense, this can mitigate or dismiss the charges.

  • Mistaken Identity: If the defendant was wrongly identified as the perpetrator, this can be used as a defense.

2. Felonies: Felonies are more serious crimes, often involving violence or significant harm to others. They can lead to substantial prison sentences, fines, and other long-lasting consequences. Examples include murder, robbery, and sexual battery. Felony sentences can range from several years to life in prison, and in some jurisdictions, even the death penalty might apply. In Orlando, Florida, there are first, second and third degree felonies, with sentences that range from probation to life in prison. Felony sentencing is largely dictated by the score sheet and relevant mandatory minimum sentences provided by law.

Defenses for Felonies:

  • Insanity Defense: If the defendant can prove that they were legally insane at the time of the crime, they might avoid a conviction.

  • Alibi: Demonstrating that the defendant was in a different location at the time of the crime can cast doubt on their involvement.

  • Duress or Coercion: If the defendant can show that they committed the crime under threat or pressure from someone else, this defense might apply.

3. White-Collar Crimes: White-collar crimes involve deceit or fraud for financial gain, typically committed by professionals in business or government positions. Examples include embezzlement, insider trading, and identity theft. Penalties can include fines, restitution, and imprisonment, depending on the severity of the crime.

Defenses for White-Collar Crimes:

  • Lack of Intent: Proving that the defendant did not intend to commit fraud or deception can be a valid defense.

  • Entrapment: If law enforcement induces someone to commit a crime they wouldn't have committed otherwise, entrapment can be used as a defense.

  • Mistake of Fact: If the defendant can show that they genuinely believed their actions were legal, this can be a defense.

4. Drug-Related Offenses: Drug-related charges encompass offenses such as possession, distribution, and manufacturing of illegal substances. Penalties can range from fines and probation to lengthy prison terms, depending on the type and quantity of drugs involved. In Orlando, Florida, drug related offenses are treated particularly harshly and it is the single largest offense incarcerating people in Florida state prisons.

Defenses for Drug-Related Offenses:

  • Illegal Search and Seizure: If law enforcement violated the defendant's Fourth Amendment rights during a search, evidence obtained might be suppressed.

  • Lack of Possession: Demonstrating that the defendant didn't have knowledge or control over the drugs can be a defense.

  • Medical Necessity: In some cases, defendants can argue that their drug possession was for medical reasons.

In conclusion, understanding the various types of criminal charges is crucial for individuals to navigate the legal system effectively. Misdemeanors and felonies have different levels of severity, leading to varying consequences. It's important to remember that defenses will depend on the specific circumstances of each case. Consulting with legal experts and building a robust defense strategy is essential for anyone facing criminal charges. If you have been charged with any criminal offense, give Matthews Criminal Defense a call today at my Orlando, Florida office at (407) 561-8166 for a free consultation.

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