What is the difference between Misdemeanor and Felony?

Difference between misdemeanor and felony

Crime classification come under three categories, namely Infraction, Misdemeanor and Felony; the difference between misdemeanor and felony and what crimes constitute a misdemeanor or a felony are explained below.

Felony Definition

Felonies are serious crimes of varying degrees, requires lengthy court procedures and often carry a penalty of imprisonment exceeding 1 year and hefty fines.

Felonies are classified into five degree categories based on the nature of the crime, the value involved, weapons used, fatalities, intent among other factors. The categories, in order of decreasing severity are:

  • Aggravated felonies
  • First Degree Felonies
  • Second Degree felonies
  • Third degree felonies
  • Fourth degree felonies
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For example New York State theft laws classify theft of items valued above $1000 but below $3000 as a fourth degree grand larceny, a felony.

Examples of felonies

Examples of felony crimes and offenses include:

Misdemeanor Definition

A misdemeanor is a crime of comparatively lesser severity, usually carrying a sentence of under one year in county jail, restitution, probation and fines.

Crimes that constitute a misdemeanor are largely dependent on the law criminalizing the act but usually involve petty crimes.

Examples of Misdemeanors

Some examples of of offenses classified as misdemeanors include:

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Difference between misdemeanor and felony DUI

How a misdemeanor DUI differ from a felonious DUI is dependent on the penalties of a conviction. The following penalties differentiates the two:

Misdemeanor DUI

Felony DUI

maximum of one year in jail and up to $1,000 fine

a year or more in jail or prison and thousands of dollars in fines
Shorter license suspension

Longer License suspension

What is the difference between a misdemeanor theft and a felony theft?

Whether a theft is classified as a misdemeanor or a felony depend on the nature, severity and value of the stolen items among other factors. For example the California $950 theft law classifies theft of items with a value of up to $950 a misdemeanor while theft of items exceeding $950 is considered a felony. In New York State, the value is $1000.

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Another difference is the penalties that come with a conviction. A misdemeanor theft carry sentence of up to 1 year in jail and fines while a felony theft can see one sentenced to more than 1 year in prison and fines.

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