What Is the Difference Between a Misdemeanor and a Felony?


Depending on the offense, a person can be accused of a crime that is classified as an administrative offense or a criminal offense. A crime can be classified as a felony or misdemeanor because of the nature of the crime, but the classification is decided on the basis of your background, your criminal record and the seriousness of the crime.

We asked professionals at Monder Law to chime in and tell us some differences we are likely to find, and criminal defense lawyers are the best source of information for that.

Different States May Have Different Classifications

Most states classify their crimes and misdemeanors with the punishment according to the class into which a particular crime falls. Nonviolent crimes such as theft are considered misdemeanors, while serious crimes such as armed robbery and murder are crimes. But there are many things to consider when deciding whether to charge someone with a crime. Serious offenses are classified into classes by degree, while crimes are classified into certain degrees of severity, the first being considered the most egregious.

Repeated Offenses Are Looked at Differently

After a certain period of time has been established, the crime is removed from the personal file and offenses are punished with greater expediency than crimes. Offenses that were once misdemeanors Can be reclassified as felonies for repeat offenders. In some states, misdemeanors are classified into crimes by class or degree. If the crime, be it a second or a third offense, is of the same nature, the level of misdemeanor increases.

Depending on the offense, the judge may decide that a prison sentence is required for an offense or that only probation is required. Offenses which are prosecuted as crimes can be downgraded to misdemeanors at the time of conviction.

What Are the Incarceration Sentences

The fact that a misdemeanor is considered less serious than a felony reflects the potential penalties you could face if convicted of a crime in upstate New York.

Penalties for misdemeanors are less severe than those for felonies, but they are still serious enough to try and throw the person off from the life of crime. Serious misdemeanors can be punished with up to a year in jail. Felonies, on the other hand, can lead to much longer prison sentences.

Misdemeanor convictions are served in a county or city jail, while felony convictions are served in a state or federal prison.

Fines Are Different, Too

For example, when a fine is imposed for a misdemeanor conviction, it is usually less than for a felony conviction. Administrative offenses are considered to be less serious than felonies, but can still be punished with heavy penalties.

For those convicted of a felony with a prison sentence attached, the minimum sentence is 12 months in prison. Just because an offense is not as serious, it does not mean it is an insignificant offense, and it stays on a person’s record for a long time.

Worst Case Scenarios

Criminal charges can result in jail time, fines, job losses and stress, whether misdemeanor or felony. People convicted of a crime, particularly a felony might find it hard to find employment, housing, or even travel without a stigma.

No matter how serious or insignificant a crime is, if convicted, you will not only serve the penalty appointed by the judge, such as a jail or prison sentence. That is, unless your defense attorney can get you off and help you keep your freedom. This freedom in the short term means staying out of jail, but in the long term, can mean so much more, with more and better opportunities presenting themselves to you if you don’t have a criminal record.    

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