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

There is much confusion surrounding the differences between misdemeanor and felony crimes. A misdemeanor is a minor wrongdoing, and is a non-indictable offense that is less serious than a felony. However, the difference between the two crimes has foggy dividing lines and charges may bring more trouble than you think.  Learn more about the differences and what it means to find the best criminal lawyer in Ardmore.

Similarities Between Misdemeanor and Felony Crimes

There are similarities in the judicial process for addressing misdemeanor and felony crimes, but there are also a few key differences. When someone commits a crime, the court system establishes jurisdiction before anything else happens.  The crime then receives a “class” or a “level” that relates to the severity of the incident. 
The offender goes into custody and must attend their first appearance in court, where the judge will determine a fitting punishment for the crime. In all cases, the judge bases this decision on the penal code as it relates to misdemeanors or felonies. The accused individual may choose to invoke their right to find a criminal lawyer to represent them, or they may take advantage of a court-appointed public defender. 
Whether the court accuses you of a misdemeanor or a felony, the steps that occur after your arrest are similar. But the actual consequences are the real difference, as is the legal process. You should find a criminal lawyer to help you. 

The Differences Between Charges

If the court accuses you of a misdemeanor, the judge is the deciding factor. They choose the punishment that befits the crime, and they base their decision on guidelines. If the court accuses you of a felony, the process is more intricate. After your first appearance, you need to show up at a formal reading which is known as an arraignment. 
During the arraignment, you can plead guilty, no contest, or not guilty. If you enter a plea of not guilty, you can expect to stand trial in front of a jury. This is where having a lawyer really matters. If you want to have a chance at success, you need to have someone in your corner. A high profile criminal lawyer will build a strong case and fight to get you a “not guilty” verdict or to minimize the consequences. 
Another difference between a misdemeanor and a felony is the sentencing. If you’re guilty of a misdemeanor, you won’t lose your civil liberties. You might need to pay a fine, participate in community service, or even spend some time in jail. But a felony comes with long-term consequences. If the court finds you guilty of a felony, you could lose your right to vote, own a gun, and run for public office. 

Harsh Consequences 

As a general rule, felonies have much harsher consequences than misdemeanors. You could spend time in jail for a misdemeanor, but it’s unlikely to be a lengthy sentence. Depending on your crime, the judge might decide to substitute jail time for a fine and community service. In some areas, the maximum jail time for a misdemeanor is one year.
On the other hand, a felony conviction could have a much harsher sentence. Although some felonies might not result in jail time, others could result in a sentence of a lifetime in jail. Similarly, a fine for a felony is likely to be higher than a fine for a misdemeanor. 
It’s difficult to describe all the differences between misdemeanors and felonies because the rules vary so much by state. Furthermore, every case is different.  There’s only one real way to tell what the consequences of a conviction might be – to talk to the best criminal lawyer you can find.

Don’t Underestimate a Conviction

Despite what you might think, a misdemeanor crime can still have serious consequences. If you don’t take your criminal charges seriously, you could end up with the worst possible sentence. Your entire future is on the line. 
As soon as you suspect charges are coming your way, call an attorney. Your quick action can make all the difference.

Frequently Asked Questions:

What crimes are misdemeanors?

Crimes that fall under the heading of misdemeanors include but are not limited to: Vandalism, certain levels of drug possession, simple assault, disorderly conduct, driving under the influence, shoplifting, trespassing, domestic violence, reckless driving, petit theft, petit larceny, minor sex crimes (such as solicitation, prostitution, and indecent exposure), some cybercrimes, resisting arrest, and vandalism.

How do misdemeanors differ from felonies?

Misdemeanors differ from felonies in that they are usually representative of non-violent crimes and do not customarily lead to long jail sentences. Misdemeanors are classified based on the monetary amount of property damage/property loss caused by the crime, or by the level of bodily injury to the other person affected. 
Consequences of a misdemeanor include community service, fines, rehabilitation, or probation.  Meanwhile, felony convictions often result in  years of jail time. 

What is the minimum sentence for a felony?

The minimum sentence for a felony is dependent upon the diagnostic criteria. For a minor felony, you might have a year or two in prison.  However, a third-degree felony could earn you a five-year sentence at minimum depending on the state laws. A second-degree felony could have a fifteen-year sentence, and a first degree felony might have a thirty-year sentence.
With that said, rules vary by state. A federal crime has certain minimum sentences while a state crime has other minimums. If you want to know more about your potential sentence, you should consult with the best criminal lawyer. 
When it comes to legal advice, there is no substitute for a qualified attorney. Whether you are facing misdemeanor or felony charges, you need someone who understands what’s at stake. Even more importantly, you need someone who will fight for your rights. Here at Morton Law, we will do just that. Call us to learn how we can help with your misdemeanor and felony crimes. We have a criminal lawyer in Ardmore who is ready to stand by your side.