Felonies vs. Misdemeanors: What’s the Difference?
If you watch the news or legal dramas, then you are likely already aware that crimes are sorted into one of two categories: misdemeanors or felonies. What crime gets what label may seem arbitrary to you. That may be, but the truth is, there are some key differences in misdemeanors and felonies, which carry over to the penalties that the defendants will be facing.
What Is a Misdemeanor?
Typically, a misdemeanor is less severe than a felony. These are considered to be minor crimes, and thus result in lighter penalties. If you are facing a conviction for a misdemeanor crime, then you may not even spend any time behind bars. Instead, you could be required to pay a fine or do community service. In some cases, the prosecution may not even bother with a grand jury for the investigation.
That does not mean that a misdemeanor will not result in any punishments, however. The fines for these crimes can be high, and if you have a criminal history, then the prosecution may decide to throw more penalties your way, including jail time. Penalties are meant to help people reform, and incentivize people to act within the law. If you have a long criminal past, then that says to the prosecution that previous penalties did not accomplish any reform.
Common misdemeanor crimes include:
- Petty theft
- Disorderly conduct
- Fourth-degree arson
- Resisting arrest
- Violating an order of protection
What Is a Felony?
Between the two categories, a felony is considered a serious crime, and the penalties for a felony conviction usually reflect that fact. While the severity of the felony crime can vary, a felony conviction will mean that you could be spending at least one year in prison. The prosecution will take your trial far more seriously than they would for a misdemeanor, as well. This means they will fight harder to get you behind bars and may seek the maximum potential penalties. Depending on the charges they throw at you, this could mean decades in prison.
On top of that, convicted felons lose certain rights in Colorado, even after they have been released from prison. If you are convicted of a felony crime, then you lose the right to vote while in prison, the right to own a firearm, and even the right to seek help from certain government assistance programs, to name a few. Not only is defending against a felony charge harder than defending against a misdemeanor, but the penalties are far more severe.
Common felony crimes include:
Where the Two Differ
The clearest difference between a felony and a misdemeanor lies in their penalties. If you are charged with a misdemeanor, then the maximum penalty will most likely see you in a low-security jail for up to one year. On the other hand, if you are convicted of a felony, then you will be sent to a high-security prison for at least one year, most likely longer.
That being said, being charged with one does not mean you cannot be charged with the other. People facing criminal trials must often defend themselves from multiple charges. Some may be misdemeanors, and some may be felonies. Prosecutors often seek to charge people for as many crimes as possible, in the hope that one of them will stick. While you may have been arrested for shoplifting, the prosecution could add on resisting arrest, assault, or even robbery, depending on the circumstances.
If you are facing criminal charges, you may be terrified of the possible penalties upon conviction. If you want to get as good an outcome as possible, then you need to work with an experienced Grand Junction criminal defense attorney. That is where we at Peters & Nolan, LLC, come in. Our legal team has the expertise your case needs. To speak with one of our incredible attorneys, call us at (970) 243-4357 today. We are ready to help you.
Peters & Nolan, LLC is your ideal source for high quality legal representation throughout the state of Colorado. Known for being personable and responsive, attorneys Andrew J. Peters and Andrew Nolan are aggressive trial lawyers with an excellent record of trying and settling cases in criminal defense, DUI/DWAI and personal injury.