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Misdemeanors Vs. Felonies - Severities of Criminal Violations


If you are placed in handcuffs, put in a jail cell, and book for a criminal violation, you have allegedly committed either a misdemeanor or a felony. You should actually be told which one pertains to your arrest but that is probably all the information you are going to get upfront. It begs the questions, “How are misdemeanors different from felonies? And should I be concerned about it?”

Misdemeanors Are Low-Level Crimes

The majority of crimes that occur within the country are misdemeanors, as they do not usually include serious bodily harm or the theft or destruction of highly-valued property. Due to the “low-level” nature of a misdemeanor crime, penalties are also comparatively low. By definition, a single misdemeanor conviction cannot include a jail sentence of more than 364 days; any fines attached to a sentencing will also be under a $5,000 – in most cases. However, a conviction for multiple counts of misdemeanors can compile and effectively shoot penalties above the misdemeanor maximum.

Some examples of common misdemeanors include:

Felonies Involve Serious Offenses

The criminal justice system sees felonies as serious crimes that have caused either severe injury, widespread destruction, or significant theft. Due to the fact that the crimes categorized as felonies are seen as “high-level” crimes, the potential penalties are also increased upon a conviction. Felony sentencing will include a year or more in state prison and thousands of dollars in fines, but it can also go the maximum and include life imprisonment without chance of parole or capital punishment.

Some common felony charges are:

What Is a Wobbler?

Sometimes the hard work of a criminal defense attorney pays off and reduces a felony charge down to a misdemeanor; or a felony is sentenced as if it was just a misdemeanor. When this occurs, the offense is known as a “wobbler” because it could have gone either way. Typically, only low-class felonies will be able to drop down to a misdemeanor.

For more information regarding crime classifications and how they pertain to your case, contact the Law Offices of Joseph R. Donahue, LLC. For 30 years of legal experience, our New Jersey criminal defense lawyer has been upholding the rights of our clients through thick and thin, misdemeanor and felony cases.

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