The distinction between misdemeanors and felonies lies in the severity of the criminal offense. This distinction is made by legal authorities and serves as the basis for criminal charges, indictments, trials and sentencing. The many and varied levels in the severity of crimes committed requires corresponding guidelines for charging, convicting and punishing offenders. In criminal law, it is essential to not only enforce and maintain law and order, but to ensure that “the punishment fits the crime.” “Misdemeanor” and “felony” are the main classification categories set forth by legal authorities to determine the necessary severity of criminal punishment.


Misdemeanor offenses are considered lesser crimes against property or persons traffic offenses or other “victimless crimes” with little to no risk of injury or bodily harm to persons. They carry lesser penalties than felonies. Sentences are generally less than one year and usually served in county jails rather than state prisons. Fines imposed do not exceed $1000. In some cases, offenders and attorneys may plead for and be granted more lenient sentencing by judges. Probation or parole length and requirements are often shorter and less severe than for felony offenders. Any crime not amounting to a felony or petty offense is classified as a misdemeanor, although some of the same crimes may earn a felony classification if higher severity of the offense merits this distinction.


Felony offenses are considered much more serious and carry more severe penalties. Crimes that result, or are highly likely to result, in injury or bodily harm to persons are generally classified as felonies. Significant crimes against property also carry a felony classification depending on the amount of cash or value of property involved. Sentences for felony offenses exceed one year and fines exceed $1000. Incarceration is usually required to be in state prisons or penitentiaries as opposed to county jails. Felony offenders may be less likely to get reduced sentencing, especially if the nature of their crimes is determined by authorities to make them a significant danger to society. Any parole granted is likely to be of longer duration and stricter requirements than the probation or parole granted in misdemeanor cases.

If you’ve been accused of a misdemeanor or even a felony, you will need an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side. The Nahajski Law Firm provides aggressive and experienced representation and will fight for your rights. Contact us online or call us at 206-621-0500.