The National TOP 100 Trial Lawyers
America's Top 100 - Criminal Defense Attorneys
Avvo Reviews
Avvo Ratting 10.0 Top Attorney
Avvo Clients' Choice Award 2018
The University of Texas at Austin School of Law

Felony vs Misdemeanor: What’s the Difference?

The Law Firm of Andrea M. Kolski

Have you been accused of a felony or misdemeanor? Are you facing a sentence and are not sure about which the difference between them? Both can incur different sentences and fines, and it can help to know which is better or worse.

Below, we have laid out a guide, so you know the difference when it comes down to a felony vs misdemeanor. Read on to hear the must-know facts on sentencing and the laws surrounding these two key legal terms.

Crime Categories

Crimes are often divided into several different categories. They differentiate the seriousness of crimes committed or allegedly committed. The biggest three categories are infractions, misdemeanors, and felonies, and each has a number of subcategories.

Categories are determined by the amount of jail time each can incur. While courts will treat each case differently, you can generally assume that the amount of jail time associated will determine if it is a felony or misdemeanor. Minor infringements that incur fines and no jail time are commonly known as infractions.

What Is an Infraction?

An infraction is the violation of a rule of law and is the least serious type of crime. They do not normally appear on criminal records and do not incur jail time. Most punishments will be a fine, and at the most serious can have five days in jails served as a penalty.

Many minor crimes come under the banner of infractions. Littering, disturbing the peace, traffic tickets, and petty crimes will fall under this banner. In general, a member of law enforcement will see an infraction and hand out a fine, which will have to be paid on a specified date.

If they are left unpaid, they can turn into more serious offenses. However, even if unpaid they very seldom end in jail sentences. You will get nothing more than trouble from the fine boards, and the fine may increase in value.

Felony vs Misdemeanor Differences

A misdemeanor is less of a crime than a felony, though it is still very serious. The misdemeanor will incur less of a jail sentence or a fine than a felony. Both are more serious than an infraction.

What Is a Misdemeanor?

A misdemeanor is a criminal offense that is much more serious than an infraction. They incur a jail term of less than one year. Any prison sentences are usually spent in a country jail as opposed to a high-security prison.

Misdemeanors divide into classes. Class A is the most serious with sentencing between 6 months to a year. For 30 days to 6 months, is a class B misdemeanor.

Class C is for misdemeanors with a sentence under 30 days. Prosecutors generally have a great degree of freedom in deciding the charge, what for, and how sentencing is administered.

What Is a Felony?

Felonies have the highest sentencing and are the most serious type of crime. Its definition is a crime with a punishment of more than one year. It will result in a serious criminal record.

However, the definition can be fluid depending upon the state. Some states do not classify their crimes at all. As such, the boundaries between a felony and a misdemeanor can have no bearing at all.

Most states do however use the term. Sometimes, it is even used as a term to reference the method of imprisonment, such as a defined amount of time in state prison. In summary, it is denoted by the place and/or length of the sentence incurred.

In the same manner that misdemeanors break down into categories, so do felonies. However, there are more classifications due to the severity of crimes usually known as a felony.

Class E felonies run from one to five years. Class D is from five to ten. Ten to twenty-five is a class C.

The two most serious are B and A. Class B is a 25 or more year sentence, with class A being life or the death penalty.

As you can see by the length of sentencing, felonies are extremely serious crimes. They may involve murders, kidnapping, arson, and any crimes that society views as serious. They can have many forms of sentencing so that the crime is judged accordingly and its severity punished correctly.

Are Wobblers a Misdemeanor or Felony?

Some offenses can change, and prosecuted as a misdemeanor or felony. These are wobblers. It can also happen that a felony can downgrade to a misdemeanor during sentencing, due to the circumstances in which the crime took place.

Your attorney should know if your case is considered a wobbler. They may plan an appropriate course of action to play on this in the trial, and force a downgrading.

Extra Considerations

Some crimes may have extra considerations to take into account, regardless of if they are a felony or a misdemeanor. For example, some types of crimes may disqualify you from certain types of licensing or occupation, such as being a Doctor or Lawyer. Crimes that involve sexual elements may require you to register as a sex offender on a list or register.

Some states even have their own civil penalties. For example, Florida has an act in which violent sexual offenders can be involuntarily committed. This means that they can possibly spend the rest of their lives incarcerated not in a state or high-security prison but in a mental institution.

Finding Representation

In the battle of the felony vs misdemeanor, then you should always hope for the misdemeanor. It has shorter sentencing and is a less serious crime. If accused of a felony and sentenced, it is possible that it may be downgraded.

If you have been accused of either, then you need the best representation available. Non Stop Justice is a criminal defense and family law attorney serving Houston, The Woodlands, and Conroe. Contact us today to discuss your case so we can start building your defense immediately.

Visit Us

By Appointment Only - Contact Us

The Woodlands Office
8505 Technology Forest Pl #104

The Woodlands, TX 77381

Phone: 832-381-3430

Get in Touch

Free Consultation 832-381-3430

What Our Customers Say

"Andrea is a fantastic attorney versed in many fields. I've retained her services for criminal defense, nondisclosure orders, and family law. She has always provided a...

Steven Street Texas

"Andrea and her staff are definitely one of the greatest of all time. Their professionalism and knowledge of the law and how the system works is unparalleled. I have her...

Dwight Osteen Texas

“Andrea is the most amazing attorney I have ever had in my corner.” — Vincent, client facing 2nd DWI charge, CASE DISMISSED