Being arrested and charged of a criminal offense will likely result in harsh penalties for those who are formally found guilty. The nature of the crime for which you are charged will greatly influence the way in which you are persecuted and sentenced. As such, understanding the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony will help you better prepare for the allegations you’re up against after any type of arrest.
Misdemeanors are crimes those that state and federal governing officials have deemed to be of minimal seriousness. As such, it is these types of criminal behaviors that will warrant punishment of no more than one year of incarceration. Generally, the law has delegated that misdemeanor crimes are those which do not drastically or adversely affect society – especially other members of society. Examples of misdemeanor crimes that are not believed to be serious enough to justify felony punishment include disorderly conduct, vandalism, petty theft, prostitution, trespass, simple assault, and possession of marijuana. The possession of other drugs may also be categorized as a misdemeanor offense if it a first-time offense.
Persons who are charged with a misdemeanor offense for one of the criminal acts listed above can expect to be punished in any of a number of ways. While there are a few exceptions to the rules, in most cases misdemeanants (individuals who are convicted of a misdemeanor) will spend a maximum of 12 months in local jail for the most severe misdemeanor incidents. In most cases, defendants are apt to spend only a short stay in jail, with some persons serving only part-time jail sentences which are completed on weekends. When jail time is not deemed necessary to fit the nature of the crime, a misdemeanant may expect to be punished with probation, fines, and/ or community service. It is unusual for minor offenses to result in a loss of civil rights, although again this is susceptible to certain exceptions in some cases. What a misdemeanant can expect is a loss of privileges such as the right to hold public office, the right to obtain certain professional licenses, and the right to seek public employment. Most often, lost privileges will reflect the area in which the misdemeanor acted out.
Felonies, on the other hand, are in an entire class of their own. Classified as serious crimes in common law countries, these are criminal acts which have been deemed by the federal government as punishable by death or imprisonment. Among the most common felonious acts are burglary & robbery, arson, rape, aggravated assault, battery, murder, vandalism on federal property, grand theft, acts of violence, and the manufacture, sale, distribution, or possession with intent to distribute of illegal drugs. The last on this list may be subject to the type and quantity of the drug in question, but in general it can be assumed that such actions will be seen as criminal felonies and charged as such.
Generally, law makers and enforcers adhere to the rule of thumb that the punishment should fit the crime. That being said, felony offenses are punished much more harshly than their misdemeanor counterparts. Convicted felons will be sentenced to no less than one year in prison. This is a much more serious stay than that experienced by misdemeanants in a local jail, especially considering the fact that misdemeanor offenses result in a jail stay of no more than a year – rather than no less than a year. Furthermore, persons convicted of a felon could face other long-term consequences such as the inability to obtain certain licenses (professional licenses, visas, etc.), the inability to purchase and/ or own firearms, body armor and ammunition, disenfranchisement, and even an ineligibility to receive government assistance or welfare. For non-citizens who are committed as felons, deportation could also be a consequence. Incurring the title of a convicted felon is something that will not be rectified or forgotten upon completion of jail time, parole, probation, etc.
When you don’t know the specific differences between a misdemeanor and a felony conviction, they can seem less than important. In many cases, it is easy to look at the two and identify their similarities: jail time, fines, probation, and more. However, the discrepancies lie within the terms of these conditions and how the sentencing is formally carried out. Upon recognition of these differences, it is very clear to see that a misdemeanor charge is much easier to bounce back from than is a felony conviction. Therefore, it is imperative to the outcome of your case and the wellbeing of your future to align yourself with a criminal defense attorney that can go to bat on your behalf. While it can be difficult to deny your involvement in the crime for which you have been charged, the right defense lawyer can certainly help you make claims that could better your chances of a reduced sentence. Finding a professional in whom you can trust to take your case to the next level and help prove that reduced sentencing such as a misdemeanor charge is more conducive to your situation could make a world of difference to your entire future.