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What is the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony?

On Behalf of | Jun 3, 2021 | criminal law | 0 comments

When arrested in Pennsylvania, most people will face either a misdemeanor or felony charge. 

Whether a crime is a felony or misdemeanor will have a significant impact on the penalties they receive if convicted. Here are the key differences between these two types of criminal offenses. 

What is a misdemeanor?

While all charges are concerning, a misdemeanor is less serious than a felony and generally has less severe consequences. Any number of crimes can elicit this type of charge, including trespass, loitering, simple assault and possession of small amounts of a controlled substance. 

Pennsylvania splits misdemeanors into three different classes with varying penalties. A first-degree conviction may lead to up to five years of jail time, but a third-degree conviction has a maximum sentence of one year. 

What is a felony?

Felony charges are typically brought for more serious crimes. Burglary, assault with a deadly weapon, kidnapping and possession with intent to distribute all fall under this category. 

As with misdemeanors, felonies may be either first, second or third-degree offenses. First-degree convictions carry a maximum of 20 years in jail. Third-degree convictions may lead to incarceration for up to seven years. 

Some misdemeanors and felonies are subject to mandatory sentences, meaning that a conviction comes with a minimum jail sentence even when there are extenuating circumstances. Either kind of offense may lead to significant fines. 

Both of these categories of charges can have life-altering effects, but a sound legal plan can lead to the best possible outcome for the accused.