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

If you have been arrested and charged for a crime, the type or strength of the charges matters—especially when it comes to deciding how you want to plead for your actions and what type of punishment you can expect from the criminal legal system. Many people do not understand the severity of some criminal actions and how those actions will be viewed by a judge or jury.

Here, you can learn about the difference between a felony and misdemeanor and what that difference means for you.

A Measure of Severity

Of course, not all crimes are equal in the eyes of the law. For example, simple trespassing is not as severe as causing purposeful injury to somebody else. Because crimes vary in their seriousness, the official charges assigned to the crimes also have to vary.

Misdemeanors are less severe than felonies. In each crime class, there are further breakdowns of severity with letter classes. For example, a class A felony is the most severe type of crime you can commit. These can also sometimes be called first degree felonies. Misdemeanors have similar classes, with A being the worst and subsequent letters reducing in seriousness. 

Punishment to Fit the Crime

The reasons crimes are broken up so specifically is because every person has a constitutional right to a punishment that fits the crime they committed. For example, if all felonies allowed for capital punishment, there would be no difference between assaulting someone with a weapon and premeditated murder or serial murder. Clearly, one type of crime deserves a harsher punishment than the other, and some types of crimes allow for a person to make amends and change for the better after rehabilitation. 

Pleas and Punishments

So what does this mean for your criminal case? First, your lawyer will try as hard as possible to avoid a guilty plea or conviction, depending on the evidence. If a not-guilty outcome is simply not possible or highly unlikely, your lawyer will try to reclassify the crime. Some more minor felonies, for example, could be changed to misdemeanors, which can mean less or no jail time or reduced fines. Even for more serious crimes, moving from one classification to a less serious one could be the difference between getting parole or no parole. It's in your best interest to only have a misdemeanor on your record because a felony conviction can mean you have trouble getting employment, even after you serve your punishment. 

For more information, contact a criminal defense law firm like Daniels Long & Pinsel.