The legal system of the United States is all-inclusive. It carefully addresses all types of crimes and breaches of law that have ever existed in the history of the United States.
- It is beneficial for the judicial system, as it provides the necessary guidance relevant to proper functioning. It also helps the common people, who get a clear understanding of what legal consequences our actions could have.
- Felonies and misdominers are also such parts of the criminal system. They make up the backbone of US criminal law.
- Criminal law provisions related to felony vs misdemeanour shape courtroom procedures, decorum, and the penalties the judge might award.
If you are a law enthusiast, a future juror, a student at a law school, or a concerned citizen, we are here to help you. This article will shed light on the criminal concepts of Felony vs Misdemeanour.
Misdemeanor Vs Felony
A felony is a grave offense. They are severe transgressions of the law. They can consist of major crimes like murder, kidnapping, and robbery.
- A misdemeanor is a minor offense. It can include simple assault, petty theft, or even disorderly conduct.
- In the battle of felony vs misdemeanour, the former is a clear winner when comparing in terms of prison sentences.
- A felony usually gets a lengthy prison sentence or a hefty fine. Punishments for misdemeanors are less grave in nature.
What Is A Felony?
A felony is a serious criminal offense. There are various grades of seriousness when it comes to a criminal offense. In the felony vs misdemeanor comparison, felony is more serious.
- They are so severe that they result in very serious penalties. Long prison sentences, fines, probation, and even loss of certain rights of the felon.
- We must understand the concept of a felony to get a greater idea about the criminal justice system.
Now, let us look into the details of a felony under US law.
Key Elements Of Felony
The US law specifically defines a felony as a “crime punishable by a term of imprisonment of not less than one year or by the death penalty.”
Felonies are the more serious types of crimes. They can contain a whole range of severe criminal acts.
For instance, common felonies include property crimes (think: burglary, armed robbery, and grand theft) to violent crimes (think murder, kidnapping, and aggravated assault).
- Criminal laws regarding felonies follow the legal principle “Nullum crimen sine poena,” which means “no crime without punishment.”
- By this logic, we can understand that all crimes deserve punishment. Grave crimes deserve equally grave punishments.
- The penalties for felonies can be severe under the US law. The more severe the crime, the more severe the punishments.
- Convicted felons get some of the harshest prison sentences.
- They might imprisoned in state or federal prisons, get hefty fine orders, serve probation, get parole, etc.
- Repeated offenders often get a combination of all of these aforementioned consequences.
Felony Can Result In Loss Of Civil Rights
The United States criminal legal system believes that repeat offenders can lose certain civil rights. In a way that is beneficial for the whole society.
- Armed robbery is a very serious felony.
- Let’s assume that he has already been to prison for 7 years on charges of armed robbery.
- They indulge in gun-related criminal activity for the second time.
- Now, it is only fair that the court takes away their civil right to carry a gun, which is protected under the US Constitution.
- Therefore, a civil rights restriction will depend on the severity of the felony.
Felony Goes On Permanent Record
A person convicted of a felony gets a permanent criminal record for it. This helps the authorities easily identify these people.
- They can take necessary protective measures.
- Having a permanent criminal record can have consequences in their life.
- It can lead to the loss of employment opportunities, housing opportunities, and much more.
A Felon’s Right To A Jury
When the authorities convict a person of a felony charge, the defendant has the right to trial by a jury.
- A group of individuals independently arriving at a conclusion after a trial is called a jury.
- According to the legal principle of “nemo debet bis vexari pro una et eadem causa,” the jury or other competent authority cannot try a person for the same felony twice.
Subject To Prosecution
According to the legal principle of “Actus reus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea”, the burden of proving the accused guilty of a felony is on the prosecution.
- District attorneys who represent the rights of the citizens of the US are the prosecutors in a felony case.
- They pursue charges against the person.
- “Ei incumbit probatio qui dicit, non qui negat” is another legal principle that says, “The burden of proof is on the one who declares, not on the one who denies.”
Felony And Legal Representation
The legal principle “Nemo debet esse judex in causa sua” states that all accused persons have a right to legal representation.
- No matter how grave the felony charge is, the accused has a right to hire legal representation and defend themselves.
- If they are not financially capable of hiring a lawyer, the state will provide one.
What Are The Various Types Of Felonies?
To better understand the Felony vs Misdemeanour concept, let us read about the types of felony in a bit more detail.
- Felonies can differ according to severity. They can have various categories, classes, or degrees.
- The legal system has come up with this segregation according to the extent of harm it causes.
- The specific classifications and penalties of felonies can vary from one state of the US to another. However, this is the basic idea.
Class A Felony
These are the most serious kind. They include grave crimes causing individuals extreme harm.
- Class A felonies involve some of the most heinous crimes.
- First-Degree Murder, Rape, Treason against the country, Armed Robbery, Kidnapping, Manslaughter, Drug Trafficking, and Arson are some of the most common ones on this list.
- Penalties can constitute some of the lengthiest prison sentences, such as fines, probation, parole, losing one’s civil rights, or all of these.
Class B Felony
These are the felonies that are slightly less severe than Class A.
- However, they can result in considerably lengthy prison sentences and large fines.
- Aggravated Assault, Burglary, Robbery, Drug Trafficking, Arson, Kidnapping, Sexual Assault, Manslaughter, Child Abuse, Felony DUI (Driving Under the Influence),
- White-collar crimes and Illegal Firearm Possession are all class B types of felony.
Class C Felony
The law considers these felonies moderately serious.
- A felon can face imprisonment for several years, along with fines for committing a Class C Felony.
- Common examples of Class C felonies can include Forgery, Theft by deception, Stalking, Drug Possession for Distribution, Criminal mischief, Assault with the use of a deadly weapon, Child endangerment, Felony committed along with a DUI, Third-degree Burglary, and Identity theft.
Class D Felony
These are the felonies that are comparatively less grave than the categories we see above.
- However, they still result in bodily or other damage.
- Therefore, they result in imprisonment and fines as a form of punishment.
- Common examples of Class D felonies in the United States are Injury from Assault, Drug Possession, Theft, Medical Prescription Fraud, Forgery, Domestic violence, Identity theft, and third-degree sexual assault.
Class E Felony
These felonies are the least severe in type.
- This category mostly includes non-violent crimes Common penalties include imprisonment for a few years and fines.
- Common examples of Class E felonies, according to the criminal law of the United States, can include
- Shoplifting, Credit card fraud, Drug Possession, Aggravated harassment, Using a vehicle illegally, Welfare fraud, Criminal trespass, and Reckless endangerment.
What Is A Misdemeanor?
According to the Law of the United States, a misdemeanor is a type of criminal offense.
- You can think of misdemeanors as a category between infractions (less serious offenses) and felonies (more serious offenses).
- If we were looking at it from the Felony vs Misdemeanor perspective, Misdemeanors are less severe than felonies, sure.
- However, they are severe enough to have a whole section under the US legal system.
- Federal law of the United States deals with misdemeanors and felonies under Title 18 of the United States Code. The provisions related to Misdemeanors include.
Title 18 Section 113
This section deals with assault in its various forms.
- The more severe types of assault fall under the felony category.
- Less severe ones fall under the misdemeanor category.
- For an assault to qualify as a misdemeanor, no serious bodily injury or other aggravating factors should be present.
Section 18 On Criminal Trespass
All sorts of trespass on military property, naval properties, or properties of the United States Coast Guard are Misdemeanors.
Section 18 And Simple Assault Of A Federal Officer
This section of the United States Code also deals with the assault of a federal employee.
- However, as soon as a person causes bodily harm or other aggravated forms of damage to the employer, it will become a felony.
Disorderly Conduct Under Title 18
This section of the United States Code deals with damage to government property.
- “Unlawful conduct on capital grounds” is also a misdemeanor under the code.
Title 18 And Petty Theft
Theft is an offense that warrants more punishment when the amount stolen is high.
- However, petty theft of relatively low amounts will fall under the category of misdemeanor.
Public Drunkenness Is A Misdemeanor
According to Section 18 of Title 18, Federal facilities of the United States can prohibit public drunkenness.
- This means that if a person is publicly drunk in a national park or other public places, it will be a misdemeanor.
Misdemeanors in the United States have categories like felonies, too.
- Class A Misdemeanor is the most serious type. It can include assault, theft, drug possession, etc.
- Class B Misdemeanors are offenses that are considerably less severe. However, they can have penalties under US law. This category can include simple assault, disorderly conduct, and first-time DUI charges.
- Class C misdemeanors are the least severe type. They result in minimum penalties. Minor traffic violations, petty theft, and public intoxication can fall under this category.
Now that we are clear on the details of felony vs misdemeanor, let us start comparing the two in detail.
Felony Vs Misdemeanor: A Comparison
A felony and a misdemeanor are two types of criminal offenses under the law of the United States.
These categories have a few similarities. They are:
Both Are Criminal Offences
This felony vs misdemeanour similarity is obviously one that we could have guessed.
- Both of these are criminal offenses.
- The US criminal law prohibits both. You can suffer penalties if you engage in either of them.
Felony vs misdemeanor has another thing in common.
- If you commit either of these, the district attorney’s office will be prosecuting you on behalf of the government.
- If you are a victim of either of these offenses, the government will represent you.
Similar Legal Process
Whether it is a felony charge or a misdemeanor, the legal process will be as follows:
- Complaint, arrest, presenting to the court, plea deal or trial, imprisonment or fine, or both when guilty.
Right To Legal Representation
Whether a person is convicted of a felony or a misdemeanor.
- They have the right to get legal representation to defend themselves. Defendants in both cases enjoy the right to remain silent and to a fair trial under US law.
The Presumption Of Innocence
In the offenses of felony vs misdemeanor, the law will find the accused to be innocent until and unless the prosecution processes them guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
Due Process Of The Law Prevails
For both felony and misdemeanor, the due process takes precedence.
- This means that a defendant in both cases will get fair treatment under the law.
- They will enjoy equal rights with the rest of the citizens. The defendant’s rights are important in both cases.
Plea Bargaining Is Available In Felony Vs Misdemeanor
These are offenses for which plea bargaining is an option under the US criminal law.
- The accused can reach a plea deal with the prosecution instead of going to trial. The path of negotiation is open in both cases.
- Did you know that both felony and misdemeanors can lead to present sentences as a form of punishment?
- Types of punishment common for both cases are fines, community service, imprisonment, probation, and resolution.
However, the severity of the penalty will also vary on the severity of the offense.
Felony Vs Misdemeanor Records
Convictions for both offenses result in a permanent change in the criminal record of the defendant.
- The record in question is permanent in nature and will affect the employment rights, housing rights, and other aspects of the defendant.
Appeals Are Valid In Both Types
After a person is convicted of a felony or misdemeanor charge, they can file an appeal with a court of appropriate jurisdiction.
- A system of appeal makes sure that the criminal proceedings are fair to all parties. Appeals are the opportunities through which a convict can point out errors in the judgment.
- Once we go through these similarities, it is easily understandable how similar these offenses are.
- Modes of punishment, rights of the defendant, and legal procedures remain basically the same in both cases.
- Now in order to get a more comprehensive understanding of the comparison between felony vs misdemeanor, let us look at the significant differences between the two.
How Is Felony Different From Misdemeanor?
Were we successful in explaining the comparison of felony vs misdemeanour? Now it’s time we clearly point out the differences between the two.
Here are the significant differences between felonies and misdemeanors.
We have talked about how felonies are the more serious kind of criminal offense.
- Do you see news channels report on heinous crimes every day? There is a 60% chance that most of them are felonies.
- They are basically activities that harm or endanger others. both misdemeanors and felonies are not socially accepted. However, a felony is the more dangerous one.
- Examples of felonies are murder, kidnapping, robbery, drug trafficking and rape.
- Misdemeanors, on the other hand, are less serious offenses as compared to felonies.
- Misdemeanors are less serious offenses compared to felonies.
- They are merely actions that are majorly disturbing the smooth working of society. They are disruptive in nature in most circumstances. However, they can also be harmful.
- When going into the felony vs misdemeanor comparison, it is important to know how grave a misdemeanor is.
- A misdemeanor, no matter how grave, cannot match up to the graveness of life-threatening acts, i.e. felonies. Common examples of misdemeanor offenses are simple assault, petty theft, disorderly conduct, and minor drug possession.
Mode Of Punishment
Felonies come with great penalties.
Since felonies are crimes of magnitude, the law tries to discourage others from walking down the same path.
- Hence, convicted felons most commonly get lengthy prison sentences (think: several years, life in prison, life sentences without the possibility of parole).
- Felony convictions could also lead to large fines, probation, etc.
- Misdemeanors are less severe offenses.
- Therefore, they come with less severe penalties. The most common punishments for misdemeanors are short jail sentences.
- Thes court awards them in terms of years, probation, community service, or small fines.
- It’s worth mentioning that Misdemeanor convictions do end up in your criminal record. However, a person will face effects that are less adverse than those of a felon.
Legal Process, Though Present For Both, Can Majorly Differ
Serious offenses are more complicated in nature.
- They involve greater evidence, more documentation, greater burden of proof, and more severe consequences.
- This is why a felony will lead to complex proceedings. The former president (Trump) went through a Grand Jury Trial In Georgia.
- These extensive grand jury indictments and pre-trial procedures are common in cases of felonies.
- Due to their complex nature, felony trials also take more time and cost more money for legal representation.
Misdemeanor cases do not take much time. They resolve quickly and involve a few steps only. Misdemeanors don’t usually lead to complications.
Hamper Of Civil Rights
Felony convictions are serious business. A convicted felon loses certain civil rights as a protective measure.
- A felon who committed a heinous crime loses their right to vote and participate in the democratic process.
- They cannot possess firearms (even though the Constitution gives all US citizens the right to bear arms.
- Sometimes, they lose the right to certain professional licenses.
- A Misdemeanor does not lead to such serious consequences.
Since these are less severe convictions, they have little impact on the civil rights of the defendant. A misdemeanor conviction, when very minor, can lead to no loss of civil rights at all.
Expungement Procedures In Felony vs Misdemeanor
Having a permanent criminal record can be quite challenging. People often treat felons differently after knowing about their criminal past.
- However, expunging a felony record is less common and almost impossible. Only some felony convictions are eligible for expungement, but most are not.
- Quite a few types of misdemeanor convictions are eligible for expungement.
- However, you have to check the relevant laws in your jurisdiction for that.
- Since misdemeanors are petty offenses, the states allow expungement up to a certain degree so that individuals are not adversely affected.
Final Word: A Practical Approach!
Now that we have reached the end of our article let us look at some court rulings relevant to our cause. These clearly point to the stark difference in the felony vs misdemeanor comparison.
- These differences can serve your purpose if you or a loved one is facing criminal charges. They have influenced the legal process, sentencing, and the long-term consequences of a felony vs misdemeanor conviction.
Case Laws Dealing With Felony
- The Miranda Rights Case: Miranda v. Arizona (1966)
Miranda v. Arizona is a landmark judgment that the U.S. Supreme Court delivered. The Court brought to light the rights of accused felons.
- The police arrested Ernesto Miranda. Mr. Miranda eventually confessed to a kidnapping and rape.
- At that time, he was not aware of his right against self-incrimination under the Fifth Amendment of the US Constitution.
- He also did not know that he could hire a defense attorney under the Sixth Amendment.
The Supreme Court ruling came in favor of Mr. Miranda. The Court criticized the authorities for not informing the accused of their rights.
Case Laws Dealing With Misdemeanors
- Mapp v. Ohio (1961)
The state convicted Dollree Mapp.
- They faced convictions for possessing obscene materials, which the police retrieved through an illegal search of her home.
- The Ohio police officers operated without a proper search warrant.
- In this case, too, the Supreme Court’s ruling went against the prosecution and in favor of the defendant.
- The court held that all evidence that the police got through illegal searches and seizures clearly violated the terms of the Fourth Amendment.
We hope you found our article helpful!