Most people know that a felony is more serious than a misdemeanor, but what is the technical difference? And what about the different levels of felonies and misdemeanors?
A felony is defined as a crime that is punishable by a year or more in jail, while a misdemeanor is one that is punishable by less than a year. Both can, and often do, carry fines. Felonies range in severity from Class 4 up to Class 1, and there’s even a Class X for the worst crimes. Misdemeanors range from Class C up to Class A, which is the most serious.
Charges can be elevated on a second offense. Something that is normally a misdemeanor could become a felony. The specific circumstances of the crime – a child victim, for example – can do the same.
Many types of crimes come with a set sentencing range. For a Class X felony, for example, that range is 6 to 30 years in prison. For a Class 4 felony, the minimum is one year.
Usually, the goal of your attorney, no matter what type of criminal charges you are facing, is to get those charges reduced or dismissed.
Common outcomes in misdemeanor cases, especially those that are less serious or first offenses, are court supervision or probation. Many misdemeanors can be sealed or expunged from your record, although it can depend on what else is on your record and whether you have any additional run-ins with the law during the waiting period.
Felonies are typically thought of as violent crimes, although certain drug and theft offenses fall into the same categories. Felonies usually stay on your criminal record, with the exception of some specific Class 3 and 4 felonies. Conviction of a felony can mean prison time, as well as loss of certain rights. It’s important to hire an attorney with significant experience defending felonies if you are facing such charges.
In any type of criminal case, don’t hire an attorney who is just going to help you plead guilty, unless the decision to plead guilty is made deliberately after exploring all of your options. In other words, find someone who is going to fight for you and do everything they can to get the best outcome possible. If you’d like our help in finding a lawyer please fill out the contact form to the right or call us at any time.