What is the Difference Between a Felony and Misdemeanor?

March 11, 2019

When we hear about criminal charges, we often hear the terms misdemeanor and felony, but many of us don’t know exactly what that means. A misdemeanor is a much less serious crime than a felony, and most of the time a person charged with a misdemeanor will see a judge and be fine with a simple fine. However, in some cases, a misdemeanor can carry a penalty of up to 10 years in prison.

Because of the extreme differences in penalties and punishments, it is important to understand the differences between the two crimes by contacting a Charleston criminal defense attorney.

What Is a Misdemeanor and Related Punishment?

In most states, misdemeanors are classified into three categories: ordinary misdemeanors, petty misdemeanors, and gross misdemeanors. Out of the three, petty misdemeanors are the least serious and rarely involve jail time. They are typically punished with a fine of less than $500. When determining how a misdemeanor will be punished, the judge will look at the defendant’s past criminal history. Based on that, the judge may recommend community service, fines, probation, restitution, or jail time.

What Is a Felony?

Because felonies are typically more serious, they are often punished with more severe penalties. Felonies can involve crimes against a person or other things like property. Felonies may include charges such as fraud, rape, murder, tax evasion, burglary, kidnapping, arson, and armed robbery.

Similarities Between Misdemeanor and Felony Charges

The only way that misdemeanors and felonies are similar is the way they are classified. South Carolina, like many states, classifies them on the severity of the crime and how much harm was done. This classification will determine how severe the punishment is.

Because prison time is not considered productive to the individual or the state, many states will hand down punishments that are lighter for crimes that are non-violent. The judicial system allows the judges great flexibility when it comes to charging and sentencing individuals in both felonies and misdemeanors.

Consequences of Felonies and Misdemeanors

Both misdemeanor and felony convictions will be placed on your record. In many cases, a misdemeanor charge will fall off of your record after a certain period of time as long as another crime is not committed during that period. However, this is not true for a felony.

While a misdemeanor may have minor consequences, the charges can cause issues in your day to day life. For example, if you get too many traffic tickets, it could result in higher insurance rates and even a suspension of your driver’s license. Felony convictions can have even more repercussions. They may result in the person having trouble getting a job, inability to possess a firearm, and cause issues with banking and renting a home.

Contact an Experienced Charleston Criminal Defense Attorney Today

Although you may believe that since you are only facing misdemeanor charges you don’t need an attorney, that isn’t always the case. If you are facing any type of criminal charges, contact the attorneys at David Aylor Law Offices today and let us ensure that your rights are protected.

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