What’s the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony? You may know that one is more serious than the other, but here are the details on what it means for you.
Convictions can have a wide range of punishments. So we’ve written an easy-to-understand guide the criminal process for these kinds of charges.
You’ll need to know what to expect and how a criminal defense attorney can help you. Keep reading to learn what a particular charge may mean for you.
What is a Misdemeanor?
A misdemeanor is a criminal offense punishable by incarceration for one year or less. Many misdemeanors are also punishable by a fine. More than 80% of criminal cases are misdemeanors. Common misdemeanors include:
- Petty theft
- Giving alcohol to a minor
- Domestic violence
- Drug possession
- Disorderly Conduct
- Driving with a suspended license
If you get convicted of a misdemeanor, you may spend up to one year in a city or county jail. You may also have to pay a fine of no more than $1000.
Here’s what that will look like depending on the severity of your offense:
- First degree: Up to one year in jail
- Second degree: Up to 60 days in jail
- Third degree: Up to five days in jail
Judges have a lot of discretion when sentencing misdemeanors. Even if you are convicted of the same misdemeanor as someone else, you may not receive the same sentence.
For example, a first-time offender convicted of DUI may only receive a fine. But a repeat offender may get sentenced to jail time. The judge will also consider the severity of the offense when determining the sentence.
Hiring a Criminal Defense Lawyer for a Misdemeanor Charge
A misdemeanor case is a criminal case where the greatest punishment that a judge can impose is one year in jail.
A defense attorney will try to negotiate a plea bargain with the prosecutor in most cases. The defendant agrees to plead guilty to a lesser charge in exchange for dismissing a more severe charge.
If the negotiations fail and the case goes to trial, the defense attorney will try to cast doubt on the prosecution’s case. They’ll attack the credibility of their witnesses and raise reasonable doubts about whether the defendant committed the crime.
The defense attorney may also try to argue that there was no intent to commit a crime. They may claim that any harm caused by the defendant was accidental.
What Is a Felony?
A felony is a criminal offense punishable by imprisonment for more than one year. It is also punishable by a fine or both. Many felonies are also punishable by death.
Common felonies include:
- Armed Robbery
- Grand Theft
- Aggravated Assault
- Aggravated Battery
- Battery on a law enforcer
- Felony battery
- Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon
- Sex crimes
- Child Abuse
Around 70% of felony convictions result in a sentence to a state or federal prison. Many factors will affect the final sentence. A judge will consider jurisdiction, criminal history, and the severity of the crime. Fines can be anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000. The following classifications depend upon the severity of your offense:
- Capital felony: punishable by death or life imprisonment
- Life felony: punishable by life imprisonment
- First-degree felony: punishable by up to 30 years imprisonment
- Second-degree felony: punishable by up to 15 years imprisonment
- Third-degree felony: punishable by up to five years imprisonment
Judges have some leeway when sentencing felonies. A first-time offender convicted of burglary may only receive probation. A repeat offender may serve prison time. The judge will consider the severity of the offense when determining the sentence.
You may face prosecution under state or federal law. It depends upon the nature of your crime. If you get convicted of a federal crime, you will do your time in federal prison.
What Else to Expect
Both a misdemeanor and a felony conviction will appear on your criminal record. It can affect your ability to get a job, rent an apartment, or get a professional license.
You can also lose your driver’s license or have your professional license revoked in some cases. A felony conviction will also affect your immigration status.
When to Hire a Criminal Defense Attorney
A lot is on the line when you are facing a felony charge. Your life and freedom are at stake. Hire a criminal defense attorney as soon as you find out that you’ve been charged with a felony.
Don’t say anything to the police until consulting with a criminal defense attorney. When the police state, “anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law,” they mean every word. The less you say, the easier it is for us to defend you.
This advice applies to misdemeanors, but the stakes are not as high. You are still facing jail time and a criminal record, so hiring an attorney is in your best interest.
Hiring a Criminal Defense Lawyer for a Felony Charge
If you get accused of a felony, you will need a defense attorney who is experienced in handling these cases.
The attorney will assess the evidence against you. They’ll determine if there is a strong case or if there are any holes in the prosecution’s case. If you don’t have a strong chance, they may try to negotiate with the prosecutor to get the charges reduced or even dropped.
In some cases, the attorney may advise you to go to trial. This is especially true if the evidence against you is weak or if there are constitutional issues with how the police obtained the evidence.
If you go to trial, your attorney will work to get you acquitted.
Finding the Best Criminal Defense Attorney
A misdemeanor conviction can have serious consequences. But it is not as severe as a felony conviction. If you are facing criminal charges, contact our experienced criminal defense attorneys.
An attorney can help you navigate the criminal justice system, protect your rights, and represent you in court. They can also help you determine if you have grounds for an appeal or to have your conviction overturned.
We’ll help you understand the charges and potential penalties. And we’ll work tirelessly to get the best possible outcome in your case. Call us today for a free consultation.
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