What Is the Difference Between a Misdemeanor and a Felony?

New York falls in line with most other states in dividing crimes into two central categories. There are misdemeanors and felonies. Both levels of crimes can carry significant penalties. There are, however, some distinctive features of misdemeanors and felonies that should be noted.

What is the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony?

Generally speaking, misdemeanors are considered to be crimes that are not as serious as felonies. The fact that misdemeanors are considered to be less serious than felonies is, in turn, reflected in the potential penalties one faces if convicted of such a crime in the State of New York. Felonies tend to carry longer prison sentences and bigger fines.

In New York, misdemeanors are separated into three classes. Class A misdemeanors are considered to be the most serious class. They are punishable by up to one year in jail and up to three years of probation. Furthermore, Class A misdemeanors carry fines upwards of $1000.00 or, alternatively, twice the amount the defendant gained as a result of the criminal act. One example of a Class A misdemeanor is assault in the 3rd degree.

The next level is Class B misdemeanors which carry a potential penalty of up to 90 days in jail and up to one year probation. Furthermore, Class B misdemeanors carry fines upwards of $500 or, alternatively, twice the amount the defendant gained as a result of the criminal act. One example of a Class B misdemeanor is prostitution.

The last category of misdemeanors is referred to as “unclassified misdemeanors.” The penalties for the misdemeanors found in this category are set forth by the specific laws that define each unclassified offense. One example of an unclassified misdemeanor is reckless driving.

Unlike misdemeanors, felonies are divided into five separate classes. Class A felonies are considered to be the most serious and those charged with a Class A felony face a potential lifetime prison sentence. An example of a Class A felony is murder in the 1st degree. The next level of felonies are Class B felonies. Class B felonies carry a potential punishment of up to 25 years in prison. Sex trafficking is considered to be a Class B felony.

The next class of felonies, a Class C felony, can carry a potential sentence of up to 15 years in prison. Aggravated possession of a weapon is considered to be a Class C felony. Next, you have Class D felonies that are punishable by up to 7 years in prison. Aggravated identity theft is considered to be a Class D felony. The last class of felonies is Class E. A Class E felony carries a potential sentence of up to 4 years in prison. Defrauding the government is considered to be a Class E felony.  These are just examples, but there are many types of felony and misdemeanor offenses and it is important that one discuss the level of offense charged with an attorney very early in the criminal justice process.

It is also important to note that felonies, unlike misdemeanors, can result in the loss of civil liberties such as the right to vote, the right to run for public office, the right to own a firearm, and can also result in the loss of the ability to hold certain professional licenses.

Criminal Defense Attorneys

While misdemeanors and felonies can vary in the severity of their sentences, both can have far-reaching impacts on a person’s life. Having a criminal record can have adverse consequences on everything from job prospects to the ability to secure housing. At CDH Law, our team of dedicated criminal defense attorneys is here to fight for you and your future. Contact us today.