As a criminal defense law firm in Gloucester County and nearby regions, we understand the importance of distinguishing between a misdemeanor and a felony. The law treats these two convictions differently for several reasons. The purpose of this post is to inform and educate readers about the differences in penalties and punishments for felonies and misdemeanors.
So, What’s the Difference?
The most apparent distinction between misdemeanors and felonies is the penalty and power of imprisonment carried by each of them. The critical difference between misdemeanors and felonies is not whether somebody convicted of a crime has to be punished by a specific amount of time in jail. It’s whether that person may be punished in a particular type of prison, or for a certain length of time.
Different Penalties in the Different States
For states that still carry out the death penalty, all crimes that are punishable by death are classed as felonies. In Rhode Island, New York, and New Hampshire, a crime is classed as a felony if the punishment is more than a year in jail. States such as Wisconsin and Arizona class crimes as felonies if they are punishable by imprisonment in a penitentiary or state prisons.
Misdemeanors are crimes that are generally punishable for a year or less in county jail, local jail, or prison. Individual states, such as California have crimes that can be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony depending on the circumstances surrounding the specific case. These crimes are known as ‘Wobblers.’ In the case of a Wobbler, crimes can be charged as a felony and then reduced to a misdemeanor after a court hearing has taken place.
Both felonies and misdemeanors require the government to bring formal charges against the accused and accord them due process of law. However, more formal procedures are needed to prosecute an individual for a felony. An individual charged with a misdemeanor can be prosecuted in court with no preliminary hearing or indictment. Whereas, they may have to go through these formal proceedings to secure a prosecution for a felony. Concerning appeals, there will be different courts allocated for those accused of a felony or a misdemeanor.