When a person commits a crime, depending on the severity and type of crime, the charge will either be designated as a misdemeanor or a felony. This terminology will determine the seriousness of the charge, the gravity of the potential penalty, and the legal procedure that will be utilized. 

Let’s explore the differences between a misdemeanor and a felony in terms of charges, penalties, and how the legal procedures vary. 

view of a Police car in side mirror

What is a Misdemeanor? 

Misdemeanors are crimes that are classified as less serious and hold a lighter penalty than a felony conviction does. They can hold high fines and several years in prison, so take these seriously despite the title of a misdemeanor. 

Since classifications vary greatly from state to state, however, a misdemeanor in one state could be classified as a felony in another. That’s why it is important to have an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side who knows the laws of the state where the crime occurred to help mount a strong defense. 

Misdemeanors often include non-violent crimes such as vandalism, certain types of drug possession, shoplifting, simple assault, trespassing, resisting arrest, indecent exposure, hit-and-run, and disorderly conduct. 

A misdemeanor means facing consequences of fines or time in a county house of correction. These penalties are usually much lower and for shorter periods of time than if charged with a felony. The charge of a misdemeanor also differs from a felony in that it can be handled in front of a judge rather than a jury of your peers. 

hands behind back about to be handcuffed with bag of white pills on a bag

What is a Felony? 

A felony is considered a more serious crime and leads to higher fines and longer jail times as penalties if convicted. Felony crimes typically involve physical violence toward another person or could be an action that causes extreme harm psychologically.

Examples of felonies include murder, attempted murder, aggravated assault, kidnapping, arson, sexual assault, rape, burglary, and higher-level narcotics charges. Some crimes can fit into both categories and the charges can be determined to be either felony or misdemeanor by the prosecuting attorney dependent on aggravating factors. 

A felony charge is often tried in a court with a judge and jury with potential penalties being higher fines and jail time being served in a state prison. 

Either Charge – Get An Attorney 

Whether you are charged with a felony or misdemeanor, it is best to have an experienced attorney standing by your side in court and during all of the proceedings. A conviction, in either case, could mean losing your freedom, livelihood, or money. Have an expert on your side who will be looking out for your best interests.