Misdemeanor vs. Felony: What’s The Difference?

The top of a police car with red and blue lights on.

If you commit a misdemeanor or felony, then what’s the difference? Telling apart a misdemeanor from felony charges is challenging. In a nutshell, a felony is more serious and severe.

The goal is to try and find out why a felony conviction can carry more criminal charges than felony charges.

Many people may wonder why a misdemeanor and felony have varying jail or prison time. Some crimes involving a deadly weapon or DUI can be considered a misdemeanor or felony.

In general, the time in custody separates felony offenses from more serious crimes than misdemeanors.


What’s The Difference Between A Misdemeanor And A Felony?

Overall, legally a misdemeanor is a less severe crime than a felony. Moreover, felonies are viewed as the most serious crimes you can commit in general.

First, what we need to understand about the difference is more about the seriousness of the crime. In criminal law, it is crucial to understand jail time and prison sentencing in the criminal system.

Around the nation, each state divides its crimes or criminal offenses into various different categories. The most important to know are infractions, misdemeanors, and felonies.

When you commit misdemeanors, it commonly means jail time. It can also be as well smaller fines of various kinds and temporary punishments. Here’s an example to show how misdemeanor charges are different from felony charges:

Crimes that are deemed as felonies include physical violence. As well, crimes that cause extreme harm could be deemed as any number of serious felonies. Felonies can also involve nonviolent activities that are still considered extremely harmful. These types of felonies can include grand theft, tax evasion, perjury, copyright infringement, and parole or probation violations.


Classes & Penalties For Misdemeanor Crimes

In the United States, misdemeanors are grouped by severity. For example, the more severe crimes are Class A (Level 1), Class B (Level 2), and moreover. Around the nation, there are a variety of classes as well called “misdemeanor,” “high misdemeanor,” or “gross misdemeanor.”

These are the more common everyday examples of misdemeanor crimes across the USA in various jurisdictions. Misdemeanors often include shoplifting, simple assault, and disorderly conduct.

A state asserts a misdemeanor as a punishable crime, which could mean up to 1 year of jail time. For example, Class A misdemeanors can lead to up to one year of jail time. Class B misdemeanors can get you a sentence of up to 180 days in jail. Lastly, a Class C misdemeanor could be as long as 90 days in jail.

Let’s look at some common misdemeanor offenses. If you are arrested for a simple assault, then it will be a misdemeanor carrying a potential sentence of around 180 days in jail and a fine of $2,500. While on the other hand, domestic assault can result in up to one year in jail along with a fine of $5,000.


Classes & Penalties For Felony Crimes

Felonies are serious crimes that require a criminal defense attorney. These are the charges and penalties for felony crimes below:


— Class A Felony

The death penalty, or a life sentence with or without parole. Example charges:

  • Arson in the first degree
  • Kidnapping in the first degree
  • Murder in the first degree 

— Class B Felony

Up to 144 months to life without parole. Example charges:

  • Aggravated assault upon a police officer or police officer
  • Aggravated sexual abuse in the first degree
  • Arson in the second degree
  • Assault in the first degree


— Class C Felony

A prison sentence of 44 to 182 months. Example charges:

  • Stalking someone on the internet
  • Assaulting a circuit court judge
  • Certain forms of theft
  • Carjacking


— Class D Felony

A prison sentence of 38 to 160 months. Example charges:

  • Involuntary manslaughter
  • Resisting arrest
  • Bank account/check fraud
  • Human trafficking


Seek professional legal help and look for a free consultation. A felony charge can arise from drug possession or a misdemeanor. The outcome of your case can depend on your criminal history, your current criminal charges, and the amount of evidence collected against you.


Defending Against A Misdemeanor Or Felony

If I face felony or misdemeanor charges then I need to be prepared for the various ways the legal system is all over the nation. Seeking the best law firm is key.

When you begin to build a strong defense case for yourself, you need to hire a criminal defense lawyer. Navigating the legal system requires sound legal advice. Anyone would want to know if legal rights were violated by another party, so seeking legal advice is key,

When you prepare for a case, start by getting your legal documents and evidence related to the misdemeanor charges and felony conviction. Related material and helpful documents include videos, e-mails, photos, and anything else that is helpful to your case.

Lastly, the next factor is whether you are a repeat offender or not in the legal system. Any jail sentence is affected by your prior criminal history.


The Bottom Line

There are offenses that could be prosecuted as misdemeanors or felonies. These cases present felonies and misdemeanors are linked together.

For example, a felony could be downgraded to a misdemeanor during sentencing. These cases point to how legal systems determine sentencing even with deadly weapons sentencing. This occurs when statutes authorize judges to punish offenders as either misdemeanants or felony offenders. Some infractions incur jail time while others only community service.

For example, If you are caught driving over the blood alcohol limit and get stopped then two things can happen. For a misdemeanor, it would be you are stopped just being over the legal limit. On the other hand, a felony would mean you get pulled over by the police with children in the car. Moreover, you are dramatically over the blood alcohol limit.

A felony charge would be a more serious charge than any number of misdemeanor convictions. In conclusion, decisions on crime sentencing for misdemeanors or felonies are influenced by state legislators as well as the seriousness of the crime.


Frequently Asked Questions


Do misdemeanors go away?

In general, Misdemeanors do not go away. Why? Because a misdemeanor will stay to be a criminal conviction. But, in time, after time has passed, you may be able to petition the court to have your misdemeanor sealed or expunged.

Misdemeanors are, by definition, less severe crimes but nonetheless considered infractions. And Class C misdemeanors usually stay on your record because of their seriousness.


Can you go to jail for a misdemeanor?

In general, jail time depends on the level of the misdemeanor charged. But most likely, you will not have to face jail time with a misdemeanor.

When evaluating the various classes of misdemeanors; Class A, Class B, and Class C misdemeanors: Class A misdemeanors are the highest level of misdemeanor offenses with the most severe sentencing, and Class C misdemeanors are the lowest class of misdemeanor offenses.


What are the three levels of crime?

The three levels of crime are infractions, misdemeanors, and felonies. For each criminal offense, there is a differentiation of the seriousness of the crime. Crimes against property are one general area of crime. In contrast, crimes against persons make up the other category. The most severe criminal charges are felonies and misdemeanors, with infractions being the least serious.


What are the levels of severity for felonies?

Around the nation, category designations may vary slightly. A common class or level categorization would use A, B, C. Or levels enumerated such as 1, 2, 3.

Class A and level 1 felonies are the most serious of all the levels of severity. Every increasing number is less severe.


First-degree felonies include the most violent crimes like the following:

  • Terrorism
  • Arson
  • Murder
  • Rape
  • Kidnapping

Class B and level 2 are less severe but may include a deadly weapon and include:

  • Human Trafficking
  • Shoplifting over a certain amount
  • Robbery
  • Manslaughter

Class C or Level 3:

  • Extortion
  • Bribery
  • Forgery
  • Disorderly conduct

Class D or Level 4:

  • Unarmed Burglary,
  • Assault
  • Possession of a deadly weapon

Class E or Level 5:

  • Falsifying Records
  • Property Damage
  • Fraudulent Claims

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