What Are the Differences Between a Misdemeanor and a Felony?
In most states, getting in trouble with the law results in either a misdemeanor or a felony being assigned to your criminal record. Which one is determined by several factors, including the nature of the offense or crime, the degree to which it has caused harm to another and the age of the person committing the offense. The assignment is also based on local and state laws, as it is subject to review by the court system and the outcome of punishment as decided by a judge. Here are some ways that a misdemeanor and a felony are different:
A misdemeanor indicates that the punishment will result in a year or less time in jail. That’s in contrast to a felony where the offender is sentenced to a year or more of jail time. In some cases, a crime may be on the fence as far as the punishment and that is ultimately up to the judge who will listen to the testimony provided by both parties, any evidence gathered by law enforcement and the status of the offender prior to the case itself. For example, a person with multiple misdemeanors may have re-offended and therefore their new case, which may be considered a punishable misdemeanor, may be elevated to that of a felony in order to incarcerate the offender for a longer period of time. In contrast, a youthful offender may be given a second chance by a judge if this is their first time in the court system and they have begun to take steps to remediate their offense and get their life headed in a more productive direction. For reporting sakes, however, the misdemeanor means one year of jail or less while the felon has spent time in excess of a year.
In cases where willful damage has been done to another person’s property, or when property is stolen, the assignment of misdemeanor or felony may be assigned based on the whole dollar value of the damaged or mission property itself. Thusly, the degree to which the misdemeanor or felony is assigned can be based on severity. For example, a youth who has stolen $200 in property may be assigned a misdemeanor. But if he or she also vandalized the property or place or residence where the property was taken from, they may face a class 6 felony. The assignment decides the amount of time they will be detained in the jail or prison or if any subsequent fines or community service is also assigned to the offender.
Certain crimes automatically result in a felony record. These can include illegal drug distribution near a school, sexual offenses, physical assault and murder. In some states, having more than three misdemeanors automatically results in a felony conviction. In the case of sexual offenses, the offender must also register as a sex offender – a label that they will carry with them forever. It is important to note that this can seriously affect that person’s ability to have a normal life or career once they’ve served their time in jail.
In most cases, even if charges are dismissed through a lack of evidence or a mistrial, a person’s criminal record will still show the alleged offense. This can be true even if someone is a minor (under the age of 18) or pays to have the item sponged from their record. The criminal record is permanent, as are police reports and evidence against them that can be pulled up and examined anytime by law enforcement or criminal background checks. Of course, a misdemeanor may be viewed as a much lesser offense on a person’s record than a felon’s may. Employers can and do employ those with criminal records. The military can and will allow those with misdemeanors to enlist. However, felons are not so lucky. They can expect to be denied opportunities in these cases.