Home Blog Misdemeanor vs Felony (What’s The Difference: Overview)

Misdemeanor vs Felony (What’s The Difference: Overview)

What is the difference between a felony and a misdemeanor?

How do you legally define it?

What are the essential elements you should know!

Keep reading as we have gathered exactly the information that you need!

Let’s dig into our criminal law knowledge!

Are you ready?

Let’s get started!

Difference Between Misdemeanor And Felony

You may have heard of “misdemeanors” and “felonies” on TV, radio, and elsewhere.

In general, a misdemeanor crime is of less serious nature and provides for sentences that are not as long as felony crimes.

On the other hand, a felony crime is more serious in nature and will therefore have stricter punishments.

For example, in California, a person found guilty of a misdemeanor can be sentenced to jail time for no more than one year and may get fines of not more than $1,000.

A person found guilty of a felony crime can expect a punishment of more than one year in jail and fines potentially up to $10,000.

Types of Crimes

In the United States, the criminal laws in every state divide crimes into different categories and classes depending on their seriousness.

For instance, you have infractions, misdemeanors, and felonies.

Within each of the crime categories, you have different “levels” or “classes” as well.

It’s important to consult with a criminal lawyer in your jurisdiction to understand the crime categories, classes, and their nuances.

Infraction

Infractions are generally “light” crimes or an offense that is minor.

Typically, a person committing an infraction is generally punished with a fine.

For example, a traffic ticket is an excellent example of an infraction.

The person will generally not get any jail or prison time and will be issued a fine.

Here are some examples of crimes that are “infractions”:

  • Trespassing
  • Lettering
  • Disturbing peace
  • Failing to stop at a stop sign 

Misdemeanor 

A misdemeanor is an act that is considered a crime, it is more serious than an infraction and less serious than a felony.

For example, misdemeanor includes:

  • Petty theft 
  • Being drunk in public
  • Prostitution 
  • Shoplifting 
  • Domestic violence 
  • Vandalism 

The punishment for misdemeanor can be:

  • Jail time for up to a year
  • Fine for up to $1,000
  • Probation 
  • Community service 
  • Rehabilitation 

Under the federal sentencing guidelines, misdemeanors carry different imprisonment terms depending on their class:

  • Class A misdemeanor will get at least six months of jail but no more than one year
  • Class B misdemeanor will get at least thirty days of jail but no more than six months
  • Class C misdemeanor will get at least five days of jail but no more than thirty days 

Quite often, the convicted offender will serve his or her jail time in a local county jail as opposed to a high security prison.

Felony 

A felony is a crime that is considered serious by society.

For example, felony includes:

  • Arson 
  • Burglary 
  • Carjacking 
  • Embezzlement 
  • Homicide 
  • Kidnapping 
  • Lewd acts with a child 
  • Murder
  • Rape
  • Sale of drugs 
  • Vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence 

The punishment for a felony crime can be:

  • Jail or prison for a minimum of one year and up to life in prison
  • A fine of up to $10,000
  • Probation 

Some jurisdictions in the United States also carry a death penalty depending on the seriousness of the felony.

The US federal laws classify felonies in different classes:

  • Class A felony can give life imprisonment or death penalty
  • Class B felony can get up to twenty-five years of prison or more
  • Class C felony can get more than ten years but up to twenty-five years of prison
  • Class D felony can get more than five years but less than ten years
  • Class E felony can get more than one year but less than five years 

Wobbler Offense

There are certain offenses called “wobblers” or “wobbler offenses”.

In essence, the prosecutor can choose to charge them as either a misdemeanor crime or a felony crime.

Typically, the prosecutor will assess the facts of the case to decide if the defendant should be charged with a misdemeanor versus felony.

For example, a wobbler offense can be:

  • Brandishing a weapon 
  • Assault with deadly weapon
  • Elder abuse 

The prosecutor will consider various elements to make a decision on how to prosecute the crime, such as:

  • The criminal history of the accused 
  • The circumstances of the crime
  • If the accused was charged for the same crime in the past 

Felony vs Misdemeanor Takeaways 

Is a misdemeanor a felony?

What’s the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony?

Let’s look at a summary of our findings.

Misdemeanor vs Felony

  • A misdemeanor is a type of crime that is less serious than a felony and carries smaller fines and shorter jail sentences
  • A felony is a type of crime that is considered serious by society and will carry longer jail sentences and heavier fines 
  • Certain crimes can be charged either as a misdemeanor or felony such as driving under the influence (DUI) 
  • Felonies include murder and rape (crimes considered very serious by society) whereas misdemeanors include petty theft and trespassing
Classes of crimes 
Criminal negligence 
Depraved indifference 
DUI 
Felony types 
Indecent exposure 
Infractions 
Misdemeanor attorney 
Sex offender 
Solicitation of minor 
Summary offense 
Types of charges 
Vehicle code 
Wobbler offense
Author
Criminal defense attorney 
Criminal law 
Criminal procedure 
Criminal process 
Expungement motion 
Penal Code 
Wharton Rule
What are felonies 
What is an infraction
Author

Editorial Staffhttps://lawyer.zone
Hello Nation! I'm a lawyer and passionate about law. I've practiced law in a boutique law firm, worked in a multi-national organization and as in-house counsel. I've been around the block! On this blog, I provide you with golden nuggets of information about lawyers, attorneys, the law and legal theories. Enjoy!

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Most Popular

Michigan Mesothelioma Lawyer (All You Need To Know)

Michigan Mesothelioma Lawyer (All You Need To Know)

Truck Accident Attorney New York (All You Need To Know)

Truck Accident Attorney New York (All You Need To Know)

Editor's Picks

Fiduciary Duty (Overview: Definition, Responsibilities, Examples)

Fiduciary Duty (Overview: Definition, Responsibilities, Examples)

Mala Prohibita [Legal Definition: All You Need To Know]

Mala Prohibita [Legal Definition: All You Need To Know]