There are a several differences between a felony and a misdemeanor. When it comes down to it felonies are crimes punishable by a year or more in prison and misdemeanors are punishable by a year or less in the county jail. Because there are more consequences in a felony, there are also some additional safeguards in place.
Types of Crimes
Felonies are usually either more sever crimes or crimes that are enhanced because of previous convictions. For example, assault is a misdemeanor, but if you cause serious bodily injury of if the assault is to a family member and you have a previous conviction of assault to a family member, the charge can be enhanced to a felony. Possession of marijuana is a misdemeanor, but possession of more than 4 ounces of marijuana is a felony.
Misdemeanors are punishable by no more than a year in jail. Felonies are generally punishable by more than 1 year in prison. There is also a state jail felony are kind of in between and the punishment range is 6 months to 2 years in a state jail facility.
Other than the amount of time, one of the main differences is where you would serve the time if you’re convicted. If you’re sentenced to jail time on a misdemeanor, you would serve the time at the local county jail. On a state jail felony, the time would be served at a state jail facility, which is like a prison, but only for other people convicted of state jail felonies and has its own particular rules. Other felonies, 3rd degree to first degree, would serve time at a state prison.
Felonies also have additional consequences. If you are a convicted felon, it is illegal to own or possess a firearm, you cannot vote for a certain period of time, and your felony conviction could be used to enhance a later charge.
Because there are more consequences to a felony conviction, there are more safeguards.
Before you can be formally charged with a felony, you have to be indicted by a grand jury. A grand jury is a group, just like a regular jury, except they have a specific term where they hear several cases. The prosecutor presents evidence in your case. If the prosecutor shows the grand jury, through evidence, that they have probable cause to move forward in your case, the grand jury indicts you. It’s not a high bar, but it does prevent you from being charged on a case with insufficient evidence.
12 person jury
In a misdemeanor, at trial, the jury would have 6 jurors. Those jurors must be unanimous to find you guilty or not guilty. If they cannot reach a unanimous verdict, there is a mistrial which could lead to another trial.
In a felony trial, there are 12 jurors. This means that the prosecutor has to convince 6 more people that you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt to get a conviction.
If you’re being charged with a misdemeanor or a felony, it’s important that you contact an attorney as soon as possible. Click below or call 210-900-2806 to schedule a FREE consultation.