Being charged with any kind of crime is a terrifying prospect for most people. One of the most difficult aspects of this process is the fact that the terms used in the legal system can be quite complicated. People who never had any experience with the legal system before may be left to wonder what many terms mean. The same is true even for those with prior legal experience. Two of most common terms used in the legal system are misdemeanor and felony. There’s a huge difference between the two.
A felony is typically a much more serious change than a misdemeanor. All defendants should know the difference between the two. All defendants should also understand how many states chose to divide up the kinds of charges they might be facing. In many instances, those who are facing criminal charges may be charged with more than one crime. Knowing the difference between pleading guilty to a class A misdemeanor instead of a class A felony can make a profound difference in a person’s life circumstances.
What is a Misdemeanor?
A misdemeanor is a very common charge. Misdemeanors are generally considered a less serious violation of the law than a felony. A person can be charged with a misdemeanor in all states. These are crimes that generally mean someone can be sentenced to between fifteen days and a year in jail. They are also crimes that may require the defendant to pay a fine of up to a thousand dollars. It’s important to understand that a misdemeanor is generally divided into varied types. For example, in New York State, like many jurisdictions, misdemeanors are divided into two classes: class A misdemeanors and class B misdemeanors. Other states such as Kentucky, Pennsylvania and Texas add a class C. Still others have class D and class E misdemeanors. Some states use levels instead where level 1 is the most serious charge.
In all jurisdictions, a class A misdemeanor is the most serious of all misdemeanor charges. Class A misdemeanors include a wide variety of changes. Someone may fall int this category if they are accused of a DUI, simple assault, prostitution, perjury, shoplifting, vandalism, possession of a controlled substance or violating a restraining order. Common sentences for someone convicted of a class A misdemeanor include fines ranging from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars. They also include jail sentences of up to a year as well as community service and participation in rehabilitation programs.
What is a Felony?
Another kind of charge is what is known as a felony. Felony charges are far more serious than a misdemeanor. Like misdemeanors, felonies are divided into classifications. In most states, felonies are ranked by a letter. Letters at the beginning of the alphabet indicate more serious charges than felonies such as class E felonies. Of all the types of felonies, it is the class A felony that is by far the one with the highest potential penalty.
Class A felonies include crimes that people often fear. They typically involve violence against others such as kidnapping, murder and rape. Someone who is accused of this type of felony may be facing the prospect of a hefty fines at best and a long time in prison if they are convicted. If someone has a prior conviction, this may mean the prosecuting attorney might choose to bump up the charges from one level of a felony to the class A felony charge. These are the kinds of convictions that will get someone potentially sent to a harsh prison for at least several years and even for the rest of their lives.
A class A misdemeanor is a charge that can lead to up a year in prison and fines of up to several thousand dollars if the person is convicted. A class A felony, on the on the hand, is an extremely serious charge that can leave the person in prison and for decades and make it very hard for them to get on with normal activities even when the sentence has been completed. Anyone who is facing either kind of criminal charge is best served by finding truly skilled legal help.
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