Crimes generally fall into one of two categories – misdemeanors and felonies. A felony is the most serious level of offense. Every state categorizes and classifies its offenses. Florida Statute 775.08 describes what a felony is in Florida:

  • The term “felony” shall mean any criminal offense that is punishable under the laws of this state, or that would be punishable if committed in this state, by death or imprisonment in a state penitentiary. “State penitentiary” shall include state correctional facilities. A person shall be imprisoned in the state penitentiary for each sentence which, except an extended term, exceeds 1 year.

Felony Examples

  • Treason
  • Murder
  • Manslaughter
  • Sexual battery
  • Carjacking
  • Home-invasion robbery;
  • Robbery;
  • Arson;
  • Kidnapping
  • Aggravated assault with a deadly weapon
  • Aggravated battery
  • Aggravated stalking
  • Aircraft piracy
  • Unlawful throwing, placing or discharging of a destructive device or bomb;
  • Any felony that involves the use or threat of physical force or violence against an individual;
  • Armed burglary
  • Burglary of a dwelling or burglary of an occupied structure;

Any defendant who commits or attempts to commit (the above felonies) within 3 years after being released from a state correctional facility…following incarceration for an offense for which the sentence is punishable by more than 1 year in this state…will be classified as a prison release reoffender.

Felony Classifications

In Florida, which will be used as an example, felonies are classified into the following categories:

(a) Capital felony;
(b) Life felony;
(c) Felony in the first degree;
(d) Felony of the second degree; and
(e) Felony of the third degree.

In Florida, 3rd degree felonies carry a maximum of 5 years in the Florida Dept. of Corrections.  The most serious felony is the capital felony, which is punishable by death. If the offender is not punished by death, s/he will be sentenced to:

  • Life imprisonment; and will be
  • Ineligible for parole

2nd Degree Felony:

  • Maximum penalty: 15 years prison

1st Degree Felony:

  • Maximum penalty: 30 years prison, unless specifically designated as punishable by life.
  • (b) For a felony of the first degree, by a term of imprisonment not exceeding 30 years or, when specifically provided by statute, by imprisonment for a term of years not exceeding life imprisonment.

Capital Sexual Battery:

  • The death penalty cannot be imposed;
  • The mandatory sentence is life imprisonment;
  • This offense deals with a sexual battery on a child under 12.


  • Murder may be either a 2nd degree murder or a 1st degree murder.
  • In a 1st degree murder the state may seek the death penalty if it can prove certain aggravating factors.
  • The jury will decide whether the aggravating factors have been established.
  • Enhanced penalties exist for certain defendants, depending on their criminal history.

Fines & Sentencing

Felonies carry mandatory minimum fines and sentences depending on the classification and severity of the crime.

Third degree felony

  • $5,000 fine
  • 5 years prison
  • 5 years probation

Second degree felony

  • $10,000 fine
  • 15 years prison
  • 15 years probation

First degree felony

  • Life in prison without the possibility of parole, or probation for life
  • $15,000 fine

Capital felony

  • Death sentence, or
  • Life in prison without the possibility of parole

Additional Felony Consequences

  • Loss of Civil Rights
  • Ineligible to obtain state professional license
  • Ineligible to hold public office
  • Ineligible for federal or state aid
  • Numerous other sanctions

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Michael S. Berg
Attorney At Law