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How do misdemeanors and felonies differ from one another?

On Behalf of | Apr 18, 2022 | Criminal Defense

If you receive a criminal charge in California, then chances are you are concerned about what the future may hold. Will you be able to keep your career on track? Will your family want to distance themselves from you? Are you going to be able to pay off legal fees and fines? All these questions and more may run through your mind.

Before assuming forgiveness for your mistake or expecting the worst, it can be helpful to review the differences between felonies and misdemeanors. This way, you’ll be able to gauge what kind of penalties you can expect to face.

Which is worse, a misdemeanor or an infraction?

A misdemeanor comes with less weight than a felony. But if you receive a ticket for speeding or parking in the wrong place, you’re probably only facing an infraction. Other forms of infractions may include entering private property, throwing garbage out in public or making too much noise. With infractions, paying a fine is typically the outcome. Court and jail time are often brief or nonexistent.

On the flip side, a misdemeanor is the next level up. Misdemeanor offenders typically serve time in jail, and their sentence depends on what level or class their crime belongs in. According to federal rules, here are the maximum sentences in each class:

  • Class A: Six months to one year
  • Class B: 30 days to six months
  • Class C: Five to 30 days

Examples of misdemeanors include violence, vandalism, theft, and drunk driving. But these categories of crime are broad, and in extreme instances, they could qualify as felonies.

What’s a felony?

Felonies are the most severe crimes among infractions and misdemeanors. They can include acts of violence, causing one’s death, kidnapping, stealing and arson. Like misdemeanors, there are classes that charges fit into that indicate the minimum and the maximum number of days in prison an offender may receive:

  • Class A: A life term in prison or the death penalty
  •  Class B: 25 years or more
  • Class C: 10 to 25 years
  • Class D: Five to 10 years
  • Class E: One year to five years

While learning the categories crimes fall in can help you set realistic expectations for your charge, it’s crucial to speak to a professional to better navigate your path to justice.