Crime is categorized and recorded based on seriousness, and two of the most common terms you may deal with if you face a criminal charge are felony and misdemeanor. These two labels cover most criminal charges outside of traffic crimes. It’s important to understand the differences in case you or a loved one are charged with a crime as they mean very different things for your future court process.
As a law firm with significant experience in criminal defense, Attorney at Law John B. Pike has represented numerous clients who have been charged with felonies and misdemeanors. We can explain the difference between the two.
What are Felonies and Misdemeanors?
Felonies and misdemeanors are two categories of criminal charges that someone can face. Infractions are for traffic violations, which do not create or go on someone’s criminal record.
Both felony and misdemeanor charges refer to the severity of a crime. Between felonies and misdemeanors, felonies are far more serious than misdemeanors. The difference between these two types of charges lies in the potential punishment and the impact they can have on someone’s life.
A felony is a serious criminal charge and typically involves violence or harm towards another person, large amounts of property damage, and/or illegal activities such as drug trafficking. Examples of felonies include:
These crimes are considered to be a threat to public safety and are, therefore, punished more severely.
Felony charges can result in imprisonment for a minimum of one year, hefty fines, and even the death penalty in Pennsylvania. Legislation is being pursued to outlaw the death penalty, though, and there is currently a moratorium on the death penalty. In addition to these consequences, having a felony conviction on one’s record can also have lifelong repercussions. It can limit job opportunities, housing options, and even the right to vote.
Conversely, misdemeanors are less serious offenses and are often referred to as “lesser crimes,” but they are still criminal charges. If you have a misdemeanor, it will follow you forever whenever you try to apply for jobs, go to school, or if you’re charged with another crime. Misdemeanors can include:
- Petty theft
- Disorderly conduct
- Simple assault
While still punishable by imprisonment and fines, the penalties for misdemeanors are typically less severe than those for felonies. In most states, a misdemeanor conviction can result in a jail sentence of up to one year, community service, or probation, depending on your previous record and the seriousness of the crime.
The Differences between Felonies and Misdemeanors
The main differences between felonies and misdemeanors lie in three key areas: the severity of the crime, potential punishments, and the impact on an individual’s life.
#1. Severity of the Crime
Felonies are considered to be more serious crimes than misdemeanors, as we’ve stated, but not why. Felonies often involve violence, long-term harm towards others, or significant financial loss. They leave long-lasting impacts on the victim that can’t potentially be fixed with a fine. Misdemeanors, on the other hand, are considered to be less severe offenses and rarely end with any serious harm falling on the victim.
#2. Potential Punishments
Due to their severity, felonies carry harsher punishments than misdemeanors. This can include longer prison sentences and higher fines, but the most significant difference is that certain felonies can receive life in prison or even the death penalty. While the death penalty is on a moratorium, its legality status isn’t guaranteed.
Misdemeanors, on the other hand, are typically punished with shorter jail sentences, community service, or probation.
#3. Impact on an Individual’s Life
As mentioned earlier, having a felony conviction on one’s record can have long-lasting consequences. It can limit your job opportunities, housing options, and civil rights.
Misdemeanors can also have negative effects on your life, but they are not as severe as those for felonies. Misdemeanors can cost you jobs and school applications, but felonies can put your ability to vote at risk and more.
Contact the Criminal Defense Attorney at Pike Law
In the U.S. criminal justice system, felonies and misdemeanors are two distinct categories of crimes. They have significant differences in their severity and consequences. While it is important to understand the differences between these two types of charges, it is equally important to remember that every case is unique and should be evaluated by a knowledgeable attorney.
At Pike Law, we have the experience you need. We are dedicated to providing excellent legal representation for our clients facing felony and misdemeanor charges. If you’ve been hit with a criminal charge, contact us as soon as possible.