Misdemeanor vs Felony: How Are They Different?

Misdemeanor vs Felony: How Are They Different?

Each time a person violates a state’s or community’s law, they’re subjected to the jurisdiction of the appropriate court. Once they’re found guilty of the crimes they’re accused of, they are subjected to penalties set by the courts—generally categorized as infractions, misdemeanors, or felonies.

According to the law, infractions are the least significant crimes. On the other hand, misdemeanor crimes are less serious than felonies but more serious than infractions. Hence, the most serious crimes are known as felonies. However, this article will focus on misdemeanors and felonies.

That said, there are three different factors separating misdemeanors from felonies. They include:

  • The incarceration periods
  • If the incarceration is in jail or prison (people accused of misdemeanors are incarcerated in jails while those charged with felonies are incarcerated in state prisons)
  • The long-term repercussions of the offense

Before explaining the difference between misdemeanors and felonies, it’s vital to state that, whatever charges you’re facing, it’s crucial to have a legal representative to help you with the charges. You might need to contact the Criminal Law Group for further information if you’re looking for a professional legal representative.

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What’s A Misdemeanor?

Misdemeanors are nonviolent crimes that might include petty theft, trespassing, disorderly conduct, simple assaults without weapon use, and vandalism. According to most states’ laws, misdemeanor crimes refer to criminal offenses that attract a jail term of less than a year and a fine of not more than USD$1,000.

In some cases, misdemeanor crimes can cause one to lose personal rights, such as the right to own firearms or driving privileges. Once found guilty, the accused might be subjected to a probationary period instead of confinement or after confinement. It’s essential to note that the violation of a probationary period can attract a harsher punishment than the initial one.

Misdemeanors are classified according to severity. Most states classify them as classes A, B, and C, while others use numbers. It’s vital to note that every state has its way of determining if a crime falls under misdemeanor or felony, depending on the evidence presented before the court of law. That said, what a particular state might view as a misdemeanor might be considered a felony in another state based on the suspect’s motive and criminal record.

Here is a brief description of the various classes of a misdemeanor:

  • Class A

Class A misdemeanor refers to a first-degree misdemeanor and the most serious one. This type of misdemeanor might attract a jail term of up to one year or not less than six months. While the fine rates for Class A misdemeanors stand at USD$1,000, they can go up to USD$2,000.

Common Class A misdemeanors are reckless driving, petty theft, assault, and battery.

  • Class B 

These crimes are considered second-degree misdemeanors and less severe than Class A. The suspects in Class B misdemeanors can get a jail term of up to six months and a fine not exceeding USD$1,000. Examples of Class B misdemeanors include obstructing official business, overspeeding, and possession of cannabis that’s between 2.5 and 10 grams.

  • Class C 

Also known as third-degree misdemeanors, Class C misdemeanors are the least serious misdemeanors. Someone sued for Class C misdemeanors can get a jail term of up to three months and a fine not exceeding USD$500. Class C misdemeanors include disorderly conduct in public spaces, minor drug offenses, and petty theft.

What’s A Felony?

A felony is the most serious crime one can be accused of. Felonies include murders, burglary, rape, arson, and kidnapping. Felony classification differs from one state to another. However, in most cases, someone accused of a felony can attract a prison time that exceeds one year. Unlike misdemeanors, where a person found guilty serves a jail term, an individual found guilty of a felony serves their term in federal or state prison.

Federal law classifies felonies depending on the prison assigned for a particular offense. Class A felony is the most severe involving life imprisonment or the death penalty, while Class E felony is the least serious involving not less than five years imprisonment.

In most cases, an individual guilty of a felony is at risk of losing their rights, such as the right to vote, run an office, serve as a jury, and carry a firearm. However, it’s essential to know that personal rights loss varies depending on the state. Some states restore one’s right to vote after serving prison, while others continue limiting felons’ access to their rights as citizens.


Based on this information, it’s evident that there’s a difference between misdemeanors and felonies. A misdemeanor involves crimes that don’t include weapons, unlike felonies where even murder can be involved. However, both involve the accused standing before the court of law and getting sentenced. 

Moreover, someone guilty of misdemeanors serves their sentence in jail, and if found guilty of a felony, they serve a sentence in a state or federal prison. Felonies also attract a hefty fine and prolonged imprisonment than misdemeanors.

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