Understanding the Difference Between a Misdemeanor and Felony Charge

When facing a charge in the court of law, you are likely to be both confused and nervous. Having a better understanding of the charges you face can help a person to navigate the legal system and come to terms with the charge(s) they are facing. To that end, misdemeanors and felonies are the two categories of criminal charges that a person may battle. 

Civil vs. Criminal Charges

First and foremost, there is a difference between civil and criminal charges that people are unaware of. While misdemeanor and felony charges fall under the criminal category, civil charges are for minor infractions and almost never go to court. Traffic violations, workplace discrimination, and personal injury claims are all examples of civil law matters. For more serious crimes, however, misdemeanor or felony charges may be raised. 

What is a Misdemeanor?

Misdemeanors are criminal acts that are more serious than civil infractions but not as serious as a felony. In most cases, misdemeanor charges are not assigned for crimes where there was an element of violence, as this is a more serious matter. Many misdemeanor charges end up being settled prior to court which makes the legal proceedings involving these charges rather quick.

Common Examples of Misdemeanors

As you start to seek out accredited criminal defense attorneys to defend your rights, it’s worth understanding what common misdemeanor charges are. The most notable offenses include:

  • Assault
  • Petty theft
  • Indecent exposure
  • Disturbing the peace
  • Domestic battery
  • Possession of controlled substances
  • Prostitution
  • Perjury

What is a Felony?

A felony is the most serious type of criminal act a person can commit and typically comes with longer jail times and heftier fines. Most felony charges have some element of violence where another person was injured. There are different classes of felonies that have ranges in the length or amount of punishment.

Common Examples of Felonies

Given that felonies are quite serious, there are a few common felony charges most people can guess. However, there may be some common charges you were unaware fell into the category of felonies:

  • Robbery
  • Murder
  • Attempted murder
  • Rape
  • Kidnapping
  • Child molestation
  • Mayhem
  • Disorderly conduct

What is the Difference in Punishment for Misdemeanors and Felonies? 

For most states, the maximum sentence for a misdemeanor crime will be no longer than one year in a county jail or a fine of around $1,000. While this can vary from state-to-state, it is a good general rule of thumb to keep in mind. On the other hand, felony charges can carry life sentences if they are severe enough and fines ranging into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. 

Keep yourself protected legally

By staying protected legally, you can help to ensure that you don’t see the inside of a jail cell. Don’t settle for accepting a charge if you are innocent on some or all counts of that charge. Rely on an accredit criminal defense attorney who can help you defend your rights and reduce the charges you are facing. 


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