What’s The Difference Between A Felony And A Misdemeanor And How Are Crimes Categorized In Different States?

What's The Difference Between A Felony And A Misdemeanor

To the average person, the legal system can be overwhelmingly complicated, that’s the reason we rely on trained, qualified experts to help us navigate it as and when necessary.

However, it’s wise to gain at least a basic knowledge of certain legal concepts, with the distinctions between and definitions of different types of crime definitely falling into this category.

Let’s look at how felonies and misdemeanors are distinguished from one another, and what regional differences exist that you should know about.

A Brief Introduction To Misdemeanors And Felonies

Put simply, misdemeanors are crimes which sit at the less serious end of the spectrum, while felonies are set apart because of their increased severity.

As you’d expect, the punishments attached to felonies are much more stringent than those for misdemeanors, usually meaning one year or more of jail time will be meted out to people convicted of this type of crime.

Felonies and misdemeanors are further broken down into classes, or degrees, depending on where in the country you are based. Let’s go over some examples to help you better understand the ins and outs of this system.

Fourth Degree Crimes In New Jersey Are Felonies

NJ has a slightly different approach to crime categorization than some of its counterparts, and an example of this is how fourth-degree crimes fall under the umbrella of the felony, rather than being misdemeanors.

You can read more about what constitutes a 4th-degree felony on this page, but in short it covers everything from shoplifting and aggravated assault to low-level drug dealing, cyber crime, and criminal mischief. Sentences of up to 18 months behind bars are associated with this class of felony in New Jersey.

California Law Allows Misdemeanors To Be Punished With A Year’s Jail Time

Like many other states, California has categories of crime divided between misdemeanors and felonies, as well as a third segment known as infractions, which is assigned to things like parking tickets which typically come with no penalty other than a small fine.

Misdemeanors may be seen as ‘less serious’, but Californians can still be jailed for up to 12 months if found guilty. And some misdemeanors in this state, such as shoplifting and drug possession, are considered felonies in NJ and elsewhere.

Other criminal acts that are rated as misdemeanors in California include assault and battery, indecent exposure, trespassing, public intoxication and even domestic violence.

In Texas, As Elsewhere, Only Capital Felonies Are Punishable By Death

Not every state has the death penalty, but Texas is one of those that does, and this punishment is reserved for the most serious category of crimes; namely capital felonies.

These sit above first-degree felonies, which are usually the highest level seen in states without the death penalty. Capital felonies include murder, as well as other types of homicide.

Meanwhile, first-degree felonies are punishable by up to 99 years in prison, although the maximum amount of money which a person convicted of this type of crime can be fined is $10,000.

When it comes to misdemeanors, Texas has three classes – A, B and C. Class A misdemeanors can carry a 12 month stretch in prison, Class B can be punished with 180 days in the clink, and Class C crimes do not require jail time, but come with fines of $500 maximum.

Wrapping Up

As you can see, getting to know crime classifications where you live is a good idea, and lets you get a better sense of what punishments exist, and how approaches differ from state to state. And no matter what situation you find yourself in, having a lawyer to advise and defend you is crucial.