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When is contracting without a license a criminal offense?

On Behalf of | Jul 29, 2022 | Construction Law

It’s no secret that Florida requires all contractors to be properly licensed. Engaging in construction without one runs the risk of voiding the underlying contract and failing to get paid. But it also brings up the potential of being charged with a crime, so when is it acceptable to contract without a license and when isn’t it?

Is a license actually required?

Most of Florida’s licensing requirements are spelled out in Chapter 489 of Florida’s Statutes. The statutes generally define a contractor as someone who is qualified for, and responsible for, the contracted project—and who undertakes construction work (in all of its variations) for compensation.

The vast majority of construction work is covered by the statute and requires a license of some form, but not everything is included. Minor carpentry, general painting and other small jobs do not necessarily fall into the definitions of construction demanding a license. Whether a particular job does meet one of the licensing definitions can determine whether the conduct is criminal.

Misdemeanor or felony?

In order to qualify as a crime, the work must be done for compensation. If it isn’t, criminal penalties will not apply. If it is, the question becomes whether a license is required, as stated above. Because the licensing question revolves around the particular work done and how it may fit into Florida’s construction definitions, you should first consult with an expert on Florida construction law.

A first violation of the criminal prohibition of contracting without a license is usually considered a first-degree misdemeanor. The exception for first-time offenses is when they are committed during a state of emergency—they can then be charged as a felony. Any repeated offenses will also be charged as a felony.