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.