The Difference Between a Felony and a Misdemeanor

In the criminal justice system, there are two basic types of criminal charges. A person will either face charges for a misdemeanor or a felony.

Understanding the difference between the two is important for anyone facing charges. The severity of the crimes, punishments, and potential impact of a conviction varies between the two.


FindLaw explains a misdemeanor is a less severe crime than a felony. Someone convicted of a misdemeanor will face shorter sentences, lower fines, and fewer other penalties.

Since misdemeanors often carry sentences of a year or less, a person will usually serve that time in jail instead of prison.


A felony is a more severe level of crime. NOLO explains felonies carry harsher sentences, which means it is more likely that a person will have to serve the sentence in prison. Felonies also often carry more consequences. For example, a person may lose his or her right to own a firearm or not have the right to vote. A felony record can also make it harder to secure a job and may prevent a person from living in some rental units.


Sometimes crimes are both a misdemeanor and a felony. The actual charge depends on the prosecutor and which crime he or she wishes to pursue. Prosecutors may also offer a reduction from a felony to a misdemeanor as part of a plea bargain.

While misdemeanors are not as severe as felonies, they still create a criminal record for the person, which makes them both serious situations. It is important to note that laws in different areas, such as criminal law Evansville IN, may vary on how they treat misdemeanor and felony charges.

The Bottom Line

The takeaway here is that misdemeanors generally result is a better outcome than felonies. However, it is not ideal to face either type of charge since they both carry the potential for penalties and result in the person having a criminal record.

Things to Consider When Hiring a Criminal Lawyer

If you ever find yourself or a loved one accused of a crime? Television is full of shows based on criminal law, which may color your perception of criminal attorneys. If you ever have to answer affirmatively, you definitely want to hire the right person to get the job done. With so many firms out there, referrals from family and friends are a great starting point. Here are some other things to consider as you research providers.

Start Your Search Online

Once you have obtained positive, firsthand referrals from people you know, do some online research. A criminal lawyer must be licensed to practice in the state where crime charges were made. Check their record to see if they’ve had disciplinary actions taken against them or received sanctions. They should be in good standing with the local bar association. Ignore claims of success shown on a website or made in person. Every case has its own unique factors that affect the outcome. A good law firm will have information online to help in your research, such as a criminal law firm in Columbia MD.

Customer Service and Experience Record

The extent of a lawyer’s training and specific experience is critical. Criminal law includes assault/battery, burglary/theft, driving under the influence, and drug/weapons possession, among other areas. Be sure to hire someone with relevant expertise and a demonstrable record. The lawyer you speak to should be who personally handles your case. Be careful if you’re always talking to a clerk or paralegal, as that might be a warning that your case is not a priority.

That Gut Feeling

Your interests and well-being should be your attorney’s main concern. A good lawyer will be up front about the strengths and weaknesses of your case. If you don’t feel confident in your counsel, you can always fire that person and work with someone else.

Criminal law representation is no joking matter. The right lawyer will have relevant experience and strong customer service. Give careful consideration to every detail as it is important to feel that your case is in good hands.