Our legal system is largely comprised of two different types of cases: civil and criminal. Civil cases are disputes between people regarding the legal duties and responsibilities they owe each other. Criminal law broadly refers to federal and state laws that make certain behavior illegal and punishable by imprisonment and/or fines. The U.S. employs a common law system, which works in combination with state and federal statutes. As far as criminal laws are concerned, each state has its own penal code which defines crimes and the severity of any offense and punishment.
Criminal cases are generally categorized as felonies or misdemeanors based on their nature and the maximum imposable punishment. Each state is free to draft new criminal laws, so long as they are deemed constitutional. Thus, what is a crime in one state may not necessarily be a crime in a neighboring state.
A felony involves serious misconduct that is punishable by death or by imprisonment for more than one year. Most state criminal laws subdivide felonies into different classes with varying degrees of punishment.
Crimes that do not amount to felonies are typically called misdemeanors. A misdemeanor is misconduct for which the law prescribes punishment of no more than one year in prison.
Lesser offenses, such as traffic and parking tickets, are often called infractions.
Some of Florida’s criminal laws have garnered national attention in recent years. One of the most dissected and discussed statute is Florida’s so-called “Stand Your Ground” gun law, which details the legal ways in which one can act with deadly force if their life is in danger.
Changes may occur in this area of law. The information provided is brought to you as a public service, and is intended to help you better understand the law in general. It is not intended to be legal advice regarding your particular problem or substitute for the advice of a lawyer.