What’s the Difference Between a Felony and a Misdemeanor?

Understanding Felonies and Misdemeanors

Both felonies and misdemeanors can land you in court or jail, but they fall into different categories. A misdemeanor is associated with less serious consequences than a felony. It’s essential to understand how the court system treats each type of crime so that you and your attorney can manage your case accordingly.

What Is a Misdemeanor?

A misdemeanor is more serious than an infraction or regulatory offense but less severe than a felony. The federal government and most states will not punish a misdemeanor with more than one year of jail time.

In many cases, however, a misdemeanor is punishable by loss of privileges or the payment of fines. Some consequences for misdemeanors include:

  • Loss of a professional license
  • Loss of a driver’s license
  • Probation
  • Community service
  • Bend warrant for failure to appear in court

The federal government divides misdemeanors into three classes:

  • Class A - Maximum imprisonment of at least six months and less than one year
  • Class B - Maximum imprisonment of at least thirty days but less than six months
  • Class C - Maximum imprisonment of at least five days but less than one month

Jail time is typically served in a local or county jail as opposed to a federal penitentiary or prison.

What Is a Felony?

According to the federal government’s definition, a felony is a crime that is punishable with a prison sentence of more than one year. However, states may define a felony differently. Either way, a felony is the most serious criminal offense.

Felonies can be violent or nonviolent offenses. In some cases, the charge depends on the individual’s history. For example, the first time you’re convicted for domestic violence, you may be charged with a misdemeanor. If you have prior convictions, you could be charged with a felony.

The least serious felonies are punishable by at least one year of prison time. The most serious felonies are punishable by death in some states.

Examples of Misdemeanors and Felonies

Some examples of misdemeanors include:

  • Aggravated assault
  • Assault and battery
  • First offense domestic violence
  • First offense driving under the influence
  • Shoplifting
  • Reckless driving
  • Failure to appear in court/contempt of court

Some examples of felonies include:

  • Possession of a controlled substance
  • Murder
  • Rape
  • Arson
  • Breaking and entering
  • Third offense domestic violence
  • Third offense drunk driving
  • Bail jumping with a felony charge

Contact a Volusia Criminal Defense Lawyer

If you’re arrested or issued a warrant, get a lawyer involved early. Adequate representation can prevent you from making errors that could leave you facing a severe sentence. Whether you have been convicted of a misdemeanor or felony the attorneys at Hager & Schwartz, P.A. can help.

Contact us today at (386) 693-1637 to schedule a consultation to learn your rights.

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