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Florida Criminal Law

Learn how Florida criminal law differs from other states.

The Florida discovery process helps eliminate surprises during trials. [©Jupiter Images, 2009]
©Jupiter Images, 2009
The Florida discovery process helps eliminate surprises during trials.

Florida criminal law enforces penalties and punishment for violations of civil and criminal legislation. Offenses are classified as felonies, misdemeanors and noncriminal violations. A felony is a criminal offense that can be punished by death or containment in a state prison under Florida state law. Misdemeanor crimes are less severe than felonies and are punishable by imprisonment in a county jail. A noncriminal violation is one that would carry a penalty such as a fine or forfeiture, but no jail time.

While many Florida criminal laws mirror those in other states, there are arrest and discovery procedures specific to the Florida court system. Additionally, Florida criminal law includes legislation applicable only in the state of Florida, such as the White Collar Crime Victim Protection Act, the Florida Sexual Predators Act and the Florida Career Offender Act.

Florida Arrests

As in any other state, criminals in Florida can be arrested with or without a warrant. Police officers may arrest without a warrant if an individual commits a felony, misdemeanor or other violation of municipal or county law in their presence. Under Florida law, a warrant is issued when a complaint alleging criminal activity is filed and after a summons has been issued but returned unserved.

According to the Florida Legislature, the Florida Stop and Frisk Law also allows any law officer in the state of Florida to hold individuals believed to have committed or about to commit a crime long enough to obtain identifiable information and determine if arrest is necessary.

This law stipulates that individuals can be temporarily detained at the location of an alleged crime and can be arrested only if probable cause exists. If an officer believes that the detained individual has a weapon, then the officer has a right to search the individual and determine the presence of a weapon. Under Florida criminal law, any evidence obtained during a temporary stop and frisk is inadmissible in court.

Florida Discovery Process

According to Cobb Law Firm, run by Stephen Cobb, a certified criminal trial law expert by the Florida Bar Association, discovery procedures in Florida differ from those in other states. The discovery process helps to eliminate surprises during trials by requiring state prosecutors and defense attorneys to exchange witness lists, written reports and electronic, video, audio and photographic evidence before trial. To do this, Florida criminal law allows both the defense and prosecuting attorneys to write down their lists of evidence and schedule a time to meet to examine and exchange evidence.

Criminal Laws Specific to the State of Florida

The state of Florida lists several criminal laws that differ from criminal laws in other states, including the White Collar Crime Victim Protection Act, the Florida Career Offender Act and the Florida Sexual Predators Act.

The Florida Legislature defines white collar crime as a criminal activity with the intent to bribe, swindle or defraud others. Due to increased frequency of white collar crimes committed via the Internet and through employment of other information technology, the Florida Legislature has revised laws regarding white collar crimes. An individual convicted of white collar crimes in the state of Florida may face penalties, fines or imprisonment.

The Florida Career Offender Act requires that all career offenders within the state be registered as such. The state of Florida defines a career offender as a criminal who has habitually engaged in violent criminal activity. According to the Florida Legislature, a career offender must maintain registration with the Florida State Department for life, unless the offender has obtained a pardon or has successfully appealed the original conviction.

The Florida Sexual Predators Act provides for the monitoring of sexual predators to prevent them from engaging in repeat sexual offenses. Under Florida law, sexual predators are imprisoned and are ineligible for release on grounds of prison space issues. Florida law also states that sexual predators will be monitored by trained probation officers with light caseloads. Additionally, Florida law requires that:

  • Sexual predators are registered as such with the state of Florida.
  • The community and public are notified about predators living in the area.
  • Sexual predators are not to work with children.

Sexual predator crimes are felonies in the state of Florida.

Florida Criminal Law Resources

According to the Florida Department of Enforcement, there were 131,781 violent crimes and 745,200 nonviolent crimes committed in the state of Florida in 2007. To find out more about Florida criminal law, individuals can contact attorneys who practice in the state of Florida, visit the Florida Legislature online or contact a state legal aid organization.

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