What is the Difference Between a Felony and a Misdemeanor?

Misdemeanor vs. Felony

In the state of California, criminal offenses are divided into two categories: misdemeanors and felonies. Misdemeanors are lesser crimes punishable by up to one year in jail. Felonies are the most serious crimes a person can commit and can result in as much as a life sentence in prison.

While many people are aware that a felony is more serious than a misdemeanor, their understanding of the differences between these types of charges is generally minimal. In reality, depending on whether you have been charged with a misdemeanor or felony, you could be facing as little as a few months in jail to several years in prison upon conviction.

Misdemeanors in California

A misdemeanor is a crime that is punishable by a maximum of one year in county jail and $1,000 in fines. Examples of misdemeanors include petty theft, public intoxication, and some first-time driving under the influence (DUI) offenses. While many other states classify misdemeanors into lettered subgroups based on severity, California misdemeanors are instead punished according to guidelines established in the penal code. While some misdemeanors can bring mild fines and probation, certain others can be escalated to felony status under aggravated circumstances.

What Is Considered a Felony in California

Felony offenses are much more serious than misdemeanors, carrying at minimum a one-year term of confinement in a state penitentiary upon conviction. Certain felony convictions such as first degree murder can carry the possibility of capital punishment, while others can potentially expose a defendant to a lifetime prison sentence. Felonies are punished in California at a judge’s discretion in accordance with a predetermined system of low, mid, and high sentences.

Felony trials are generally more complex than misdemeanor trials and can potentially go on for months if not years due to the severity of the offense. Violent or otherwise serious felony offenses can also cause a person to receive a “strike” on their criminal record under the state’s “Three Strikes” sentencing law, which will cause them to face increased penalties for any subsequent felony convictions. If convicted of a third “strike,” a defendant will face a minimum 25-years to life sentence without parole.

Misdemeanor or Felony, You Need a Lawyer

Whether you are facing misdemeanor or felony charges, one thing remains certain: you need a powerful advocate on your side to protect your freedom. At Hanson, Gorian, Bradford & Hanich, our high-caliber Riverside County criminal defense lawyer have more than 50 years of combined legal experience and can provide the unwavering support you need during this frightening experience.

Find out more about what our team of advocates can do for you – fill out a free case evaluation form or call (951) 506-6654 today!


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