What is the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony?

All states have established classifications for criminal infractions. The least serious violations are considered misdemeanors, and the most serious are considered felonies. Whether or not a crime is considered a misdemeanor or a felony is determined by the negative impact on society as well as the victim.

If you have been charged with any type of crime you have the legal right to hire a lawyer. For felony cases, if you cannot afford a lawyer, a state-appointed lawyer is provided to you.

Understanding Misdemeanors

Misdemeanors are the least offensive criminal actions and are punishable by up to one year in jail. Other common punishments for misdemeanors include community service, payment of fines, victim restitution, probation, or house arrest with monitoring.

Common crimes which are considered misdemeanors including speeding, trespassing, public intoxication, vandalism, fighting, disorderly conduct and driving under the influence (assuming this is your first DUI offense and no one was injured or killed).

Misdemeanors can be further subdivided. For example, some states have Class A misdemeanors, Class B misdemeanors, and so on. The degree of the offense will be determined by additional aggravating factors. Punishments for misdemeanors will vary by class.

For example, if you are charged with a Class 1 or Class A felony in some states you will be sentenced to up to 12 months in jail and have to pay a fine of $5,000. A Class 4 or Class D misdemeanor, however, would allow the court to sentence you to up to 30 days in jail and charge you a fine of $500.

Understanding Felonies

Felonies are the most serious classifications of crimes. If you are convicted of a felony you can spend one year up to life in prison. Some states also allow the death penalty. Like misdemeanors, states also further subdivide felonies into classes or degrees, depending on the severity of the crime. In addition to prison time, if you commit a felony, you can also expect to pay high fines, serve probation, perform community service and make restitution to the victim.

Common felonies include sexual battery, grand theft auto, armed robbery, burglary, stalking, fleeing arrest (aggravated), drug possession, murder, dealing in stolen property, rape, resisting arrest with violence and driving under the influence of alcohol (for multiple DUI offenses or if there is injury or death). Other non-violent or white collar crimes may also be considered felonies including embezzlement, commercial fraud and insider trading.

If you have been charged with a felony it’s imperative to talk to a criminal lawyer. If convicted it is likely you will serve extensive time in jail. If you cannot afford a lawyer and you have been charged with a felony, the court will appoint you a lawyer.

Expunging a felony from your criminal record

If you have been convicted of a felony it is likely the charge will remain on your criminal record permanently and cannot be expunged. A felony conviction can also result in other civil losses such as the right to vote and the right to carry and own a firearm.

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Category: Criminal Law