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What is the difference between a misdemeanor, a felony?

Stephanie Pagones

When someone is arrested, the crime is classified as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the charge and its level of severity.

Felonies are more serious than misdemeanors and, by definition, will lead to more extensive consequences.

One of the most obvious differences between misdemeanors and felonies is that the former leads to less than a year in jail.

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According to Cornell Law School’s Legal Information Institute, “commonly issued” misdemeanor punishments also include community service, fines or probation lasting shorter than 12 months.

A felony charge is typically given for the most serious crimes, according to Justia.com, or ones that call for harsher punishments, including more than 12 months behind bars.

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“Felonies are often divided into sub-categories in order to determine punishment, such as first- second-, or third-degree offenses,” Justia.com states. “Punishment may include imprisonment for one year to life, or life imprisonment without the possibility of parole in some jurisdictions.”

But punishments may vary based on the crime and depending on whether the person accused of the wrongdoing pleads guilty or reaches a deal with law enforcement.

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