According to Merriam Webster Dictionary, In US law, a felony is typically defined as a crime punishable by a term of imprisonment of not less than one year or by the death penalty.
Misdemeanors, in contrast, are often defined as offenses punishable only by fines or by short terms of imprisonment in local jails.
In addition to felonies and misdemeanors there is a third category referred to as a Petty Offence. Petty offenses are sometimes called violations and are usually punished by a fine with no jail time. Often times they are handled by magistrates in municipal courts and the entire process typically takes no longer than a day. A defendant is notified that he’s being charged with a petty offense by issuance of a ticket, which specifies the court date and the fine that will be judged. Jury trials are not available for petty offenses.
Originally, in English law, a felony was a crime for which the perpetrator would suffer forfeiture of all real and personal property as well as whatever sentence was imposed. Under US law, there is no forfeiture of all of the felon’s property, and it is not part of the definition. For certain crimes, however, such as some kinds of racketeering, specific property is subject to forfeiture.
Breaking down Felonies VS misdemeanors
Felonies are the most serious type of crime and are often classified by degrees, with a first-degree felony being the most serious.
It is required in many states that a prosecutor obtains an indictment from a grand jury before charging someone with a felony.
Felonies are punishable by substantial fines and prison sentences in excess of one year. If you are convicted of a felony, you will most likely serve your jail time in a state or federal correctional institution.
The court must provide an accused person with an attorney if he or she cannot afford one. A jury trial is also available for a felony prosecution. Other constitutional rights such as the right to a speedy trial are also involved when a person is charged with a felony.
Misdemeanors are punishable by more substantial fines and sometimes jail time, usually less than one year. Any jail term would most likely be served in a local or county jail, rather than a state or federal correctional institution.
Like the petty offense, misdemeanors are usually adjudicated in a shortened trial, where defendants do not have the right to court-appointed lawyers if they can’t afford one. Jury trials can be available, depending upon the type of misdemeanor alleged.
Conviction of a felony brings more disadvantages than just higher fines and longer jail time. In some states, persons convicted of felonies cannot serve on juries, or purchase or possess firearms and may not be employed in certain professions, such as law, teaching, or the military.
A few additional consequences of that come with a felony.
- Loss of the right to become an elector and cannot vote, hold public office, or run for office, although he can have these rights restored.
- Disqualification from jury service for seven years, or while he or she is a defendant in a pending felony case.
- Loss of the ability to have firearms.
- Possible loss a professional license or permit, although licensing agencies are restricted in their ability to revoke licenses because a person cannot be disqualified from engaging in any occupation, profession, or business for which a state license or permit is required solely because of a prior conviction of a crime except under certain conditions.
There are many more consequences that come with a felony charge.
This is a general article for example purposes. As always, please contact us at 979-821-2663 regarding your specific case.