The difference between a Felony and a Misdemeanor

What is the difference between a Felony and a Misdemeanor? 

There is a lot of jargon that surrounds the legal system and all the charges that it hands out. It is easy to become confused about the different terms and, exactly, they mean. One great example of this are the terms “felony” and “misdemeanor”. Many people know that the two are different and that one is “worse” than the other, but if you ask them to nail down exactly what that difference is they will often find themselves hard pressed to do so. Fortunately, it is rather easy to break the differences down.

What are felonies and misdemeanors?

Before we get started on all the reasons why the two are different, it is helpful to take a look at what they have in common. Both terms refer to a criminal charge that is handed out by the court system. If you commit a crime, in other words, your actions will likely be labeled as either a misdemeanor or a felony. Which one you are charged with often dictates the exact kind of punishment that you will receive as well as how harsh that punishment is.

If we are ranking crimes in terms of severity, then misdemeanors are the less serious of the two charges. Keep in mind that punishment often scales according to the type of misdemeanor or felony with which you are charged. That means that being charged with a misdemeanor is likely to see you with lesser punishment than if you were charged with a misdemeanor. This difference in severity is, in fact, the main difference between a misdemeanor and a felony.

How do punishments vary for misdemeanors vs. felonies?

 Briefly mentioned above, misdemeanors and felonies carry different sentences to suit their differing levels of severity. In general, misdemeanors have punishments that are no longer than one year in jail and fines of no more than $2500. That doesn’t mean that you will always receive a year behind bars or a $2500 fine, of course, but these are the maximum penalties that are typically ascribed to misdemeanor crimes.

Felonies, on the other hand, are subject to much harsher consequences. In addition to longer jail terms, individuals charged with felonies can also be sent to prison. This is different from misdemeanors, where individuals serve any time behind bars in a local jail. Additionally, the potential fines related to felonies is much higher than with misdemeanors. Whereas most misdemeanor fines cap at $2500, fines for felonies can assess fines up to $250,000 and sentence individuals to years in prison.

If you are charged with a crime, your best bet is to try and ensure you are charged with a misdemeanor rather than a felony. Individuals who are charged with felonies also find it more difficult to find work after their sentence has been completed and can even have trouble finding landlords willing to rent homes to them. This is on top of the increased prison sentences and potential fines that they also face when compared to individuals charged with misdemeanors.

Can felonies be reduced in court?

One common question is whether a felony charge can be reduced to a misdemeanor in court. The answer to this is that it depends upon the specific crime and individuals in question. The attorney that you hire is also quite important in this process. Some will be more experienced than others, and you want someone with plenty of knowledge of criminal law and how to see charges reduced on your side.

With the right attorney and the right legal strategy, it is absolutely possible to see a felony pled down to a misdemeanor. It just depends on what you are being charged with. Another important factor is the prosecutor’s motivation in pursuing a higher sentence and how likely they are to accept a lesser charge. This is another reason why you want to make sure you have an attorney who is experienced with criminal law on your side when your court date rolls around. Knowledgeable attorneys will take these factors into account when crafting your legal strategy and advising you how they think you should proceed with your case.

Are you looking for a skilled attorney with plenty of hands-on experience to help you with your felony or misdemeanor charges? At Gullberg Law, LLC, we are proud to offer our clients the very best in legal representation and customer service. Our lawyers are dedicated to ensuring that our clients receive the best deal possible, and they passionately fight to achieve this goal every day.  The best way to achieve the best deal is to be prepared for trial and have a reputation for excellent trial advocacy.  We strive to meet that standard every day.  We are happy to discuss your case with you! If you are in need of an attorney, reach out to expert legal team today for more information. We offer a free initial consultation, so the call is risk free!