For people who have never been incarcerated, the terms "jail" and "prison" may be used interchangeably. The truth is that there are some differences. One thing is certain: you should avoid both.
A fundamental difference exists between jails and prisons. Jails are typically for people who are awaiting trial or who have been convicted of misdemeanors. Prisons are typically for people who are convicted of felonies.
Jails vary in their services. For instance, you may be taken to a jail if you are arrested for a felony or misdemeanor and await arraignment or trial. If you are convicted of a misdemeanor, you may return to the same jail or be sent to a different jail, depending on the circumstances. Often, people who have not yet been sentenced will be housed in county jails and general population jails.
Many jails are targeted toward different types of inmates. For instance, some types of jails may offer work release programs where people can leave jail during the day to go to work. Others may be set up for inmates to spend only their weekends. These tend to be low-security facilities.
State and federal prisons are slightly different. Generally, federal prisons are considered more severe because federal crimes are often more serious. Inmates who spend several years in prisons may transfer from one to another occasionally.
Avoiding Jail or Prison Is Best
Regardless of what kind of crime you are charged with, jail and prison are not desirable places to spend time. Many people feel that jail is much more desirable than prison, so they will not fight misdemeanor charges. Misdemeanor charges are still serious, and you should not give up on representation simply because you think you can avoid prison time.
Take into account the fact that any conviction will be on your criminal record. You could face a DUI, for instance, which will be visible in the future if you face legal challenges. You may also face extra penalties if you are arrested and sentenced to a second offense in the future.
Some offenses come with additional penalties as well. For example, even misdemeanor sex offenses may require registration as a sex offender, and this is certainly something you want to avoid.
No matter what charges you face and which kind of imprisonment could exist in your future, consider hiring a criminal defense attorney. An attorney can help you fight your charges in court, perhaps preventing both jail and prison time.
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