Crime stories often rank high on the evening news and consume a good portion of the online news sites. Many of the crimes in the U.S. that make the headlines are categorized as either a misdemeanor or a felony. Is there a big difference? Actually, there is because it states the severity of the crime. And the gravity of the offense may or may not involve incarceration.
Misdemeanors are more serious than receiving a ticket from a law enforcement officer and will typically result in a criminal record. Yet its not as serious as a felony. Some of the crimes which fall into the misdemeanor classification include: almost all DUI/DWI charges, public intoxication, petty theft, prostitution, vandalism and shoplifting. Those who are found guilty of misdemeanors may spend a brief period of time in a jail, not prison. Most of these crimes allow you to get out of jail by using a bail bondsman. These infractions are handled in country, not federal, courts. While each state has its own methods for determining the appropriate length of a jail sentence, the time served is usually less than one year.
Often, a judge decides the offender must also pay some type of a fine. The judge may require the accused to pay a certain amount of money to compensate for the loss/damages the victim incurred. Or the judge may order the accused to spend a set number hours performing acts of community service. Finally, the judge may simply rule that the offender has some degree of probation attached to the sentence.
Felony offenses are defined as crimes which society has deemed severe enough to require prison time, if the accused is found guilty in a court of law. Some of the crimes grouped into this category include: rape, burglary, armed robbery, fraud, embezzlement, arson, kidnapping and murder.
Consequently, a criminal defense attorney normally always represents the defendant in court. Since felons are considered the most serious, punishments can be extremely severe. In cases where a guilty verdict is reached, a prison sentence will exceed 365 days. Unlike misdemeanors, felonies may fall into federal jurisdiction. For instance, someone charged with kidnapping will be prosecuted in a federal court.
Typically, the only way to get either a misdemeanor or a felony charge totally erased from your record is a process called expungement, which is a strict, lengthy and difficult process. Since misdemeanors are recorded in county records, they may or may not appear during a background check. Alternatively, a felony charge will remain a matter of public record indefinitely unless expunged.