Crucial Differences Between Being Charged with a Felony or a Misdemeanor 1

Melissa is a mother of 2, lives in Utah, and writes for a multitude of sites. She is currently the EIC of HarcourtHealth.com and writes about health, wellness, and business topics.

Typically, a felony is far more severe of a crime than a misdemeanor is. Those arrested for a misdemeanor will usually receive a lesser sentence than those convicted of a felony. Even so, misdemeanors are still criminal charges, and this article will discuss what the difference between a felony and a misdemeanor are.

Both felonies and misdemeanors have different classes or levels within them, and each has different potential jail time requirements. The differences between the various levels depend on how serious the court systems consider individual cases.

Misdemeanors Are Given for Lesser Crimes and Have Fewer Penalties

Individuals charged for a misdemeanor offense have committed crimes that are not quite as serious as felony crimes. Misdemeanor crimes might include theft, prostitution, assault, public intoxication, vandalism, trespassing, disorderly conduct, discharging a weapon in a city, or reckless driving.

Those charged with misdemeanors will often be required to pay high fines, serve jail time, and finish community service, probation, and drug/alcohol education, to name a few. Misdemeanor offenses can have mandatory jail sentences in some states, but not all do. In states that do require jail, a misdemeanor class A will have a penalty of between 6 months to one year of jail time; a misdemeanor class B will have a penalty of between 31 days to 6 months of jail time; a misdemeanor class C will have a penalty of between 6-30 days.

Felonies Are More Severe and For More Serious Offenses

Felonies are the most severe type of crime, and they sometimes involve violent actions like arson, kidnapping, burglary, rape, and murder. Since the stakes are much higher, felony arrests often require jail time and other penalties.

Felons must pay steep fines, and they cannot legally run for office or possess a firearm. They also might have trouble finding housing or landing a good job due to many mandatory background checks. While state laws vary slightly, felony convictions are generally categorized according to the severity of the offense in the first, second, and third-degree. A typical penalty for a first-degree felony could be a sentence of 10+ years in prison (20 years maximum in a federal high-security or state prison).

In a second-degree felony, a maximum of 10 years of prison time is an average sentence. A third-degree felony is the least harsh and can include a maximum of 7 years in jail or prison. It is important to note that if a felony charge does not include the degree of the felony, it is automatically a third degree.

In summary, misdemeanor crimes are associated with less punishment because the crimes are not as severe. While those who are charged with a misdemeanor can serve up to one year in jail, the majority of misdemeanors are bargained down to probation or alternative sentences.

Individuals charged with misdemeanors are not sent to prison. Felonies are much more serious offenses and receive a stricter penalty. Felons with traditional sentences will usually be assigned to spend at least one year in prison.