Misdemeanors versus felonies: Distinguishing factors

What is a misdemeanor?

A misdemeanor is a crime that is able to be punished with up to a year spent in jail. The time spent in jail may take place in a local county jail instead of a high-security prison in some cases, which is helpful to those who are not violent or who committed only minor crimes. This also helps keep younger children or teens out of major prisons, as they are more likely to go to a juvenile facility.

Misdemeanors are typically minor enough that prosecutors have some leeway in the way they decide how to charge you and in how they request penalties to be carried out. That means you have a better chance of negotiating a plea bargain or lower sentence for the crime if you feel you’ll be convicted.

What is a felony?

A felony is the most serious type of crime you can be charged with. They are punishable by prison sentences of over a year. Punishments can be severe in these cases, so the court has to be very strict. Defendants’ rights are of the utmost concern in these cases, and their defense attorneys must be present. Felony punishments can range in severity, but it’s important that they match the crime.

Source: FindLaw, “What Distinguishes a Misdemeanor From a Felony?,” accessed April 22, 2016