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8 Legal Differences Between a Misdemeanor and a Felony

8 Legal Differences Between a Misdemeanor and a Felony
Photo: Unsplash.com

If you or someone close to you is involved in an arrest for a crime, you will begin to learn a variety of legal terms that can be puzzling and complex. The terms “misdemeanor” and “felony” are used to describe classifications of crimes and are used to describe their seriousness. To help you understand the differences in these classifications, here are eight legal differences between a misdemeanor and a felony that may be pertinent.

  1. A felony is much more serious than a misdemeanor in terms of legal and societal consequences. A misdemeanor generally involves a crime that does not involve violence. Typical misdemeanors include such actions as reckless driving, shoplifting, simple assault, or a first-time drug offense. A felony often involves crimes of violence, such as assault with a deadly weapon, domestic violence, sexual assault, murder, or any crime involving a weapon that can cause injury or death. Felonies also include crimes of theft or fraud.
  2. Felonies receive more serious punishments than misdemeanors. In addition, misdemeanors and felonies may have varying designated punishments from one state to another. Generally, misdemeanors may involve incarceration for less than a year. Felonies generally involve incarceration for more than a year.
  3. If you are convicted of a misdemeanor, you are likely to be imprisoned in a county jail. A felony conviction generally means incarceration in a state prison or a federal prison, depending on the jurisdiction of the crime.
  4. Some crimes may involve a fine, rather than imprisonment, and other crimes may involve both a fine along with imprisonment. A fine for a misdemeanor is usually a smaller amount of money than for a felony.
  5. Some crimes can be charged as a misdemeanor or as a felony, depending on the circumstances. Your attorney will determine if your case should be pleaded down to a less serious misdemeanor charge. This is one of the reasons why having good legal advice can be so important to your case.
  6. Some misdemeanors can simply be dismissed with a fine, with no jail time. A felony conviction generally involves jail time, the length of which is determined by the judge on the case. In some cases, incarceration may be dismissed for time served or community service.
  7. A misdemeanor may be expunged from your record. A felony is less likely to be expunged from your record. However, some felonies that do not involve harm to another person may be expunged.
  8. Having a felony on your record may affect your ability to gain employment more than a misdemeanor. Because a felony often involves violence or threats of violence, employers may be reluctant to hire someone with a felony conviction. A felony can also affect your ability to get a loan or rent an apartment.

The differences between misdemeanor violations of law and felony violations are consequential and should be carefully considered by you with the help of your attorney. The effect of the type of charges being made against an individual can have a significant impact on their life, both during and after the case is adjudicated.

Published by: Nelly Chavez

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