What's the Difference Between a Misdemeanor and Felony?

Men on Computers and Woman Looking at Legal Form

If you or someone you know has been charged with a crime, you may be wondering what the difference is between a misdemeanor and a felony. Understanding the distinctions between these two types of crimes is important when determining the potential legal consequences and actions needed to take. In this article, we will define the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony and what each can mean for you.


A misdemeanor is a less serious crime, typically a non-violent offense, such as a traffic violation or petty theft. Misdemeanors can also include minor drug possession charges, low-level disorderly conduct, or minor assaults. In general, those convicted of a misdemeanor may face up to a year in jail and fines of up to $1,000. While misdemeanor charges would likely be handled in the local County Court, it is important to have a criminal defense lawyer represent you to ensure your rights are protected.


On the other hand, felonies are more severe crimes that can carry a significant amount of jail time or even life imprisonment, such as violent crimes like murder, armed robbery, or drug possession with intent to sell. In some instances, the death penalty might also be a potential punishment. Felonies often involve repeat offenders and can result in years or even life in prison. The consequences of being found guilty of a felony extend far beyond the obvious jail time and fines, so it's important to have a knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer to protect your rights.

The Legal Consequences

While misdemeanors and felonies differ in their potential legal consequences, one commonality is that being charged with either could affect your future. Having a record of a misdemeanor or a felony could make it challenging to find employment or gain acceptance into educational or professional programs.

Contact a Criminal Defense Lawyer Today

If you have been charged with a misdemeanor, you may choose to represent yourself or hire a criminal defense attorney with experience working with misdemeanors. Felony charges, however, are serious enough to warrant the aid of a seasoned and qualified criminal defense lawyer. The possible long-term consequences of a felony conviction are too significant to leave your fate in the hands of an inexperienced attorney or yourself as an untrained layperson.

Understanding the distinction between a misdemeanor and a felony is crucial in your criminal case, as they differ in their legal repercussions and potential sentencing. If you find yourself accused of either a misdemeanor or a felony, it's essential to secure the assistance of an experienced criminal defense attorney well-versed in defending criminal charges, as even minor mistakes or missteps can have significant repercussions. By seeking professional legal assistance, you can increase your chances of a successful case outcome and protect your rights as a defendant.