Misdemeanor Vs. Felony Charges: Legal Distinctions

Have you ever wondered about the differences between misdemeanor and felony charges? Understanding the legal distinctions between these two types of charges can be crucial if you ever find yourself facing criminal allegations. In this article, we will explore the nuances of misdemeanor and felony charges and shed light on their legal implications. By the end, you’ll have a clear understanding of the distinctions between these two types of offenses, which will help you make informed decisions. If you need any further guidance or legal advice, don’t hesitate to reach out to attorney Jeremy Eveland.

Misdemeanor Charges

Misdemeanor charges refer to criminal offenses that are less serious than felony charges. These offenses are typically punishable by fines, probation, community service, or a short-term jail sentence, usually no longer than one year. Misdemeanor charges are generally categorized based on the severity of the offense and the potential harm caused to others.

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A misdemeanor is a type of criminal offense that is less serious than a felony. While felonies are considered major offenses and entail significant punishments, misdemeanors are considered minor offenses. Misdemeanors usually involve nonviolent crimes, such as petty theft, disorderly conduct, or simple assault.


Misdemeanor charges can be further divided into different categories based on the severity of the offense. Common categories of misdemeanors include:

  1. Class A Misdemeanor: These are the most serious type of misdemeanor charges and carry harsher penalties. They might involve offenses like driving under the influence (DUI), possession of a controlled substance, or assault causing bodily harm.

  2. Class B Misdemeanor: This category includes offenses such as trespassing, public intoxication, or vandalism. Class B misdemeanors are less severe than Class A misdemeanors and carry lighter penalties.

  3. Class C Misdemeanor: These misdemeanors are the least serious and usually involve non-violent offenses like minor traffic violations, petty theft, or disorderly conduct. Class C misdemeanors often result in minimal penalties, such as a fine or community service.


The penalties for misdemeanor charges vary depending on the category of the offense and the jurisdiction in which it was committed. Generally, the possible penalties for a misdemeanor conviction can include:

  1. Fines: Misdemeanor fines can range from a few hundred to several thousand dollars, depending on the severity of the offense.

  2. Probation: A judge may impose probation as part of the sentence. This requires regular check-ins with a probation officer and adherence to certain conditions, such as staying away from certain individuals or locations.

  3. Community Service: Instead of jail time, misdemeanor offenders may be required to perform a specific number of hours of community service. This can involve activities such as picking up trash, assisting in local charities, or participating in rehabilitation programs.

  4. Jail Sentence: Misdemeanor offenses can lead to a jail sentence of up to one year in some cases. However, shorter sentences or alternatives like work release programs may also be offered.

Common Examples

Misdemeanors can encompass a wide range of offenses. Some common examples of misdemeanor charges include:

  1. Shoplifting or petty theft: Stealing items of low value from a store or establishment.

  2. Simple assault: Engaging in physical altercations or threatening violence without causing significant injury.

  3. Drug possession: Possessing small quantities of controlled substances for personal use.

  4. DUI/DWI: Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

  5. Trespassing: Entering or remaining on someone else’s property without permission.


Expungement refers to the process of having a criminal record sealed or removed from public view. This can be a valuable option for individuals who have been convicted of a misdemeanor charge in the past and wish to move forward without their past offense hindering their opportunities.

In most jurisdictions, expungement is possible for certain types of misdemeanors after a specified period of time has passed since the conviction. The exact eligibility criteria and procedures for expungement may vary depending on the jurisdiction. Consulting with an experienced attorney can help determine whether expungement is a viable option in a specific case.

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Effect on Employment

Misdemeanor charges can have an impact on employment opportunities, although the severity of the consequences can vary depending on the nature of the offense, the industry, and the employer’s policies.

Some employers may conduct background checks on potential employees, and a misdemeanor conviction could potentially affect their hiring decision. However, the significance of a misdemeanor charge may diminish over time, especially if the individual has maintained a clean record since the offense.

Certain professions that involve working in sensitive areas, such as education, healthcare, or government positions, may have more stringent requirements regarding criminal records. A misdemeanor conviction may pose challenges for individuals seeking employment in these fields.

Effect on Housing

Misdemeanor charges can also have implications for housing opportunities. Some landlords or property management companies conduct background checks and may be hesitant to rent to individuals with past criminal convictions.

While misdemeanor charges may not carry the same weight as felony charges, they can still raise concerns for landlords or property owners who prioritize the safety and well-being of their tenants. However, like with employment, the impact of a misdemeanor charge on housing can diminish over time, especially with a clean record and a demonstrated commitment to rehabilitation.

Effect on Immigration

For individuals who are not U.S. citizens, a misdemeanor conviction can potentially have immigration consequences. The severity of these consequences can vary depending on the immigration status, the nature of the offense, and the overall immigration history.

In some cases, certain misdemeanor charges can be grounds for deportation or denial of future immigration benefits. It is crucial for non-citizens facing misdemeanor charges to consult with an immigration attorney to understand the potential immigration consequences and explore available options.

Statute of Limitations

Each jurisdiction has a specified period within which legal action must be initiated for a particular offense. This is known as the statute of limitations. Misdemeanor charges, like felony charges, are subject to these limitations.

The statute of limitations for misdemeanors can vary depending on the jurisdiction and the specific offense. Generally, less serious misdemeanor offenses have shorter statutes of limitations compared to more serious offenses. It is essential to consult with an attorney to determine the applicable statute of limitations in a particular case.

Legal Representation

If you are facing misdemeanor charges, it is crucial to seek legal representation to protect your rights and interests. An experienced attorney can provide valuable guidance and work towards achieving the best possible outcome for your case. Here are some options for obtaining legal representation:

Choosing an Attorney

When selecting an attorney, consider their experience and expertise in handling misdemeanor cases. Look for someone who has extensive knowledge of criminal law and a track record of successful outcomes for clients.

Public Defender

Some individuals may qualify for a court-appointed attorney known as a public defender. Public defenders are licensed attorneys who provide legal representation to individuals who cannot afford to hire a private attorney. While public defenders provide competent legal representation, their availability may be limited, and they often have heavy caseloads.

Private Attorney

Hiring a private attorney gives you the opportunity to work with legal counsel of your choosing. Private attorneys can dedicate more time and resources to your case, providing personalized attention and potentially yielding better results. However, private representation comes with associated costs, so it is important to consider your budget and discuss fees with potential attorneys upfront.

Legal Aid

In certain situations, individuals with limited financial resources may qualify for legal aid or pro bono services. Legal aid organizations or non-profit legal clinics offer free or reduced-cost legal assistance to those in need. It is worth exploring these options if you are unable to afford private representation.

Remember, consulting with an attorney can provide you with the necessary guidance and support tailored to your specific circumstances. They can help navigate the legal process, protect your rights, and work towards achieving the best possible outcome for your misdemeanor case.

Learn more about the Misdemeanor Vs. Felony Charges: Legal Distinctions here.