What’s the Difference Between a Misdemeanor and a Felony?

If you or a loved one have been accused of a crime, it’s important that you understand the nature of the charges against you. The biggest one—aside from the crime itself—is whether you’ve been charged with a misdemeanor or a felony. Both are crimes that can go on your record, but one carries significantly higher penalties.

Whether you face felony or misdemeanor charges, make sure you talk to an attorney in Park Hills, MO as soon as possible.

What is a misdemeanor?

A misdemeanor is a crime that carries penalties of less than one year in prison and under a certain amount in fines. Misdemeanors are typically subcategorized into Class A, B and C misdemeanors, with Class A being the most serious.

Class A misdemeanors carry punishments of imprisonment for between six months and one year. Class B can send you to jail for 30 days to six months, and Class C misdemeanors range from five to 30 days imprisonment. In Missouri, there are also Class D misdemeanors, which carry a fine of up to $500.

Examples of Missouri misdemeanors include things like petition signature fraud, manslaughter, profiting from human remains, driving without a license, assaulting a police officer and more. The prosecution typically has a lot of leeway as to whether they’ll charge, how they’ll charge and what kind of remedy they seek—however, they are bound by the upper limits unless the case is truly extraordinary.

What is a felony?

Felonies are the most serious crimes, both on the state and federal levels. Murder, kidnapping, rape, arson and robbery are common felonies. Depending on the circumstances of the crime and whether the state has a three strikes law in place, the punishments for a felony can vary dramatically. Prosecutors and judges take a defendant’s criminal history into account during sentencing, and if you have committed previous felonies, you may receive a significantly harsher punishment.

Felonies are subcategorized by degrees. There are first-, second- and third-degree felonies, as well as capital offenses (those that are eligible for the death penalty).

Capital offenses carry sentences up to life imprisonment or the death penalty. First degree is 25 years or more in prison, second degree can net you 10 to 25 years in prison and third-degree felonies usually range from five to 10 years. There are associated fines, too—you may be liable for up to $10,000, and more if it’s a serious drug-related crime.

When do I need a lawyer?

If you’ve been accused of a crime, a public defender may be appointed to take your case. If you exceed the public defender’s income requirements, you can—and should—hire a private misdemeanor or felony attorney in Park Hills, MO. They’re not only familiar with the law and the procedural system, they’ll also help you develop the best defense possible. Even if you’ve only been charged with a Class D misdemeanor, there’s always a chance you can successfully have the charges dropped.

For help with your criminal case, call Maynard & Joyce, LLC today.