Felonies Vs Misdemeanor
There are significant differences between a misdemeanor and a felony offense. A felony is defined as a crime punishable by more than one year in prison or by death.
Felonies are typically the most serious crimes in any system of criminal law. However, any crime that has a sentence of only a fine or confinement in the local jail does not necessarily qualify for a felony.
The state codes may label a crime as a gross or aggravated misdemeanor but provide for a sentence of more than one year in the state penitentiary system, thereby ensuring that the so-called misdemeanor is treated as felony in many respects. In case a person is charged with felony and the concerned individual does not have the financial capability to hire a lawyer, the offender is authorized with the right to a court-appointed attorney. However, the same privilege is not administered for less-serious crimes. Felonies range from first degree murder to armed robbery to embezzlement or possession of any amount of cocaine. Convictions related to felonies result in extremely harsh punishments.
Felonies not only carry a greater penalty than misdemeanors but also a larger social burden. Being convicted of a felony impacts the individual’s life to the highest possible degree. In terms of procedural criminal law, the ‘three strikes’ laws are applicable on felonies but not misdemeanors. This law states that if the offender has been twice convicted of a felony, one more felony conviction will subject the individual to life in prison. In addition to this, the substantive law can be affected in cases where a crime is designated a felony. An accidental death can be slotted as a murder if it occurs at the expense of a felony, but if it occurs in the commission of a lesser crime, it is relegated as only manslaughter. Similarly, burglary is defined at common law as breaking and entering a house for the purpose of committing a felony. However, if the intention was not to commit a felony, the crime cannot be charged as burglary. A felon may have more restrictions on their rights in comparison to a person convicted of a lesser crime. In many jurisdictions, felons cannot serve on juries. Frequently, their rights to vote are taken away and they are also forbidden to practice certain streams of professions, such as law or education. Felons may be prohibited from owning guns or serving in the military as well.
In comparison to felonies, misdemeanors are less-serious crimes. Examples of misdemeanors include non-habitual DWI’s, larcenies of less than 1,000 dollars and possession of a small amount of marijuana or drug paraphernalia. They are generally punishable by a fine or captivity in the county jail for less than one year. The executor does not usually convene a grand jury to investigate and charge misdemeanor offenses. Often, misdemeanors are handled by special courts with abbreviated procedures. Misdemeanor traffic offenses may have pre-set penalties in the form of scheduled fines. Unlike convictions of felony, poor defendants in cases of misdemeanors are not entitled to a court-appointed lawyer. The legal penalties for misdemeanor convictions are generally less stern than for charges of felony. Another very blatant difference that largely affects one’s personal life is that a misdemeanant may still be able to serve on a jury, practice any profession as per personal choice and retain the right to vote. Serious felonies like assault and sexual abuse may have misdemeanor charges as part of the statutory scheme. For instance, assault resulting in brutal injury is a felony, but simple assault which leaves no lasting injury is a misdemeanor. Likewise, rape is a felony, but lascivious acts are a misdemeanor.
Be it a charge of felony or misdemeanor, both will be part of your permanent criminal record and will count against you in any future criminal prosecutions. Either ways, it is important to be familiar with the concerned legal connotation, one’s rights and ways to lessen the impact on one’s personal and professional life.
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