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What is the Difference Between a Felony and a Misdemeanor?

Criminal law can a complicated subject to understand. That’s why if you’ve been accused of a crime, you should immediately call your local Orlando criminal defense law firm to help you through the process. The difference between a felony and a misdemeanor is fairly striking. To better understand the difference, you have to know the different categories of crimes the United States uses. 

Most jurisdictions within the U.S. split up the types of crimes into three different categories. The difference between one category and another might be a fine line and be decided by the tiniest detail. The seriousness of the crime committed will put you either in the infraction, misdemeanor, or felony category. 

Infractions and Misdemeanors

Infractions aren’t really serious, so they won’t be covered too much here. There’s often no jail time and the fines (if one is issued) are small. We would put things like traffic tickets, littering, and other types of small issues in this category. You usually won’t be issued a misdemeanor or a felony from a traffic ticket or other infraction offenses unless other crimes were committed that raise the level of the seriousness of the crime. 

Misdemeanors are the next step up on the crime seriousness scale. In general, federal law classifies misdemeanors that carry a jail sentence of less than a year. In some cases, you may not even get a jail sentence of a misdemeanor, but don’t take that to think you’re not in trouble if accused of such. There are varying degrees of misdemeanors.

A Class A misdemeanor is the worst that carries a sentence of up to a year in jail. Class B is between a month and 6 months in jail. Class C stipulates a jail sentence between 5 days and one month. Due to the minor nature of a misdemeanor crime, these sentences are often carried out in county jail and not a federal prison with hardened criminals. That’s often reserved for felonies. 

What is a Felony Offense?

Felonies are the most serious offenses that can be committed. Even so, what is considered a felony isn’t the same across the country. The federal government classifies a felony as being a crime with a jail sentence longer than a year, but individual states do things a little differently. What one state considers a felony, another might not. Most states do consider a felony sentence one that lasts longer than a year in a state or federal prison system. 

  • Class A felonies are the worst and often requires a lifetime in prison or even the death penalty if applicable. 
  • Class B is more than 25 years in prison. 
  • Class C is between ten and twenty-five years. 
  • Class D is between five and ten years. 
  • Class E is between one and five years. 

To learn more about the classifications of crimes and the prison times that go with them, be sure to check out this video: What is the Difference Between a Misdemeanor and a Felony