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What is the Difference Between a Misdemeanor and a Felony?

In the United States, most states classify crimes into two categories. That is, a crime can either be a felony or a misdemeanor. Before you hire a criminal defense attorney, it’s important to understand the difference between them and how they relate to charges against you or someone you know.

That way, you will understand what to expect from the court system in terms of punishment. Below we break down the difference between a felony and a misdemeanor to help you understand the difference.

What is a Misdemeanor?

A misdemeanor is generally viewed as a less serious crime than a felony. Common examples of misdemeanors include minor thefts, driving under the influence or with a suspended license, or a minor drug offense. Misdemeanors can further be categorized into different classes, depending on the state.

These classes each have a maximum imprisonment term under federal sentencing guidelines. For example, a Class A misdemeanor carries a maximum sentence of 11 months and 29 days. A Class B misdemeanor carries a maximum sentence of more than 30 days up to six months, while a Class C misdemeanor has a maximum sentence of more than five days but not more than thirty days.

The most common punishment for a misdemeanor is a hefty fine. Still, the sentencing can also include some jail time, usually in a local or county jail rather than a state or federal correctional institution.

What Is a Felony?

As mentioned, a felony is one of the most serious types of criminal charges, and like misdemeanors, felonies can be further classified. In this instance, felonies are further classified by degrees. For instance, a first-degree felony is the most serious charge of them all and is often levied against individuals that commit murder, rape, or grand theft auto.

Because of the seriousness of these crimes, the punishments also tend to be more severe and can include life imprisonment, the death penalty, or a considerable amount of jail time. If a person is accused of a felony, they will have to face trial by a jury to protect their rights.

Whether You’re Dealing With a Misdemeanor Or Felony Consider Speaking With a Criminal Defense Attorney

There are many disadvantages associated with misdemeanor or felony charges. In the best-case scenario, you could walk away after paying a substantial fine, but you could also end up losing your job and going to jail. Seeking the assistance of a competent and experienced criminal defense attorney ensures you have the best legal representation possible. Call us, and we will help you secure the best outcome with the lowest risk given your circumstances.