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How do misdemeanors and felonies differ?

On Behalf of | Sep 28, 2023 | Criminal Law |

U.S. News and World Report stated in 2022 that the violent and property crime rates in Stephens County, Georgia, are higher than the national average. The different crimes that fall into these categories may be misdemeanors or felonies.

For anyone facing criminal accusations, it is important to understand the difference between these two categories of crimes.

Severity of the offense

Misdemeanors are less serious crimes, typically involving minor infractions that may not result in serious harm or danger. Felonies encompass more serious crimes that often involve substantial harm, violence or significant financial losses.

Penalties and punishments

Misdemeanors usually carry lighter penalties, such as fines, probation, community service or short jail sentences under one year. Felonies come with more severe consequences. These may include longer prison sentences that can extend beyond one year, significant fines and the loss of certain civil rights.

Legal process

Misdemeanors often involve a more straightforward and expedited legal process. They usually have fewer pretrial procedures and a quicker resolution. Felonies typically entail a more complex and lengthy legal process. They often include a grand jury indictment, extensive pretrial motions and a trial by jury.

Criminal records

A distinction between misdemeanors and felonies is their long-term impact on an individual’s criminal record. Misdemeanors may have less enduring consequences, as they are generally less serious offenses. However, felonies can result in a criminal record that has far-reaching implications for employment, housing and other aspects of life.

Collateral consequences

Felonies often come with collateral consequences beyond the immediate legal penalties. These can include restrictions on the right to bear arms, limitations on obtaining professional licenses and challenges in securing employment or housing due to the stigma associated with a felony conviction. Misdemeanors typically have fewer collateral consequences.

Knowing the differences between misdemeanors and felonies can allow people facing charges to make better decisions and understand their situation more clearly. The type of charge often will dictate defense strategies as well.