If you find yourself accused of a crime, it is important to understand the nature of the crime and what it represents. The two most common types of crimes in the American justice system are misdemeanors and felonies.
The difference between these two charges is very important to understand, as the classification of the crime denotes the severity of the repercussions. According to Findlaw, felonies are the most serious type of crimes, while misdemeanors tend to be less so.
What is a misdemeanor?
According to federal law, misdemeanors are crimes that result in a jail term of less than one year if the courts find the accused guilty. Usually, in a misdemeanor, any jail time required will take place in a local county jail as opposed to a high security prison. There may also be fines associated with the charge.
Prosecutors often have much more leeway when it comes to dealing with misdemeanor cases. Misdemeanors are subject to plea bargains quite often, meaning that if the courts convict an individual of a misdemeanor, he or she may not spend a day in jail. It is possible to bargain a misdemeanor down to time served or community service a lot of the time.
What is a felony?
Felonies are the most serious crimes. Examples of felonious crime include burglary, rape, arson, and murder. Since these crimes are much more serious and the penalties are much more extensive (including the death penalty or life in prison), criminal procedure is much more strict. This is so the state can guard itself against accusations of violating the rights of the accused.