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Is there a major difference between a felony and misdemeanor?

When you're facing criminal charges, the differences between a misdemeanor and felony can be immense. While no charge is ideal, it's much better to face a misdemeanor than a felony when you go to court.

With a misdemeanor, you're facing charges more serious than an infraction (like a speeding ticket), but you are unlikely to face a prison sentence over a year and may not even need to go to a high-security prison, instead going to a county jail instead. Misdemeanors often have several potential penalties, so the prosecution and your defense attorney can negotiate for a plea bargain or different charges or penalties appropriate to the criminal act.

In comparison, a felony is much more serious. It's very important to have a strong defense if you're facing a felony charge, because you could face a year or longer in prison and heavy fines. It's vital to make sure the court and jury is not biased during the case and that your rights are protected.

Felonies are usually crimes that result in harm or that are viewed particularly negative by society as a whole. For example, a murder is a felony, just as kidnapping or arson are felony crimes. Even DWIs can be felonies after a certain number of misdemeanor charges, due to the repetitive actions of the defendant.

If you face either a misdemeanor or felony, your attorney will work to protect your rights in court. He or she will look for ways to have the case dismissed or for ways to discredit the prosecution. Depending on the evidence, there may not be enough to continue the case, or you may be able to take a plea deal that benefits you.

Source: FindLaw, "What Distinguishes a Misdemeanor From a Felony?," accessed April 27, 2017

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