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What is the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony?

On Behalf of | Dec 19, 2023 | Criminal Defense

Understanding the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony is important for anyone who has been accused of criminal wrongdoing in Ohio. These classifications not only determine the severity of a crime but also influence the potential consequences that an alleged offender faces if convicted.

Broadly speaking, a misdemeanor is a “lesser” offense that cannot be punished by more than one year in state custody. A felony, by contrast, can be punishable by more than a year of imprisonment, but this classification does not mean that a convicted felon will automatically serve a sentence of this length.

Considerations at play

The most fundamental difference between these two classifications is rooted in the severity of any particular offense. Misdemeanors are considered less serious crimes compared to felonies. Examples of misdemeanors include petty theft, simple assault and simple drug possession. Felonies, on the other hand, are more severe and include crimes like murder, rape, armed robbery, serious drug offenses and aggravated assault.

The penalties for misdemeanors are typically less severe than for felonies. Misdemeanor convictions can lead to fines, community service, probation or short jail terms. Felonies carry stiffer potential penalties, including longer prison sentences (more than a year), larger fines and more stringent probation conditions. In some cases, felonies can result in life imprisonment or even the death penalty, depending on the jurisdiction and the nature of the crime. Misdemeanor sentences are usually served in local or county jails, whereas felony sentences are served in state or federal prisons.

With all of this said, it’s important to clarify that although misdemeanors are “lesser” offenses, it is still important to vigorously defend against these charges. If you or a loved one is facing allegations of criminal wrongdoing, it’s important to seek legal guidance immediately regardless of whether the crime in question is classified as a misdemeanor or felony, as the consequences of a conviction could be life-altering either way.