What’s the Difference Between a Felony and Misdemeanor?

difference between felony and misdemeanor

In North Carolina, crimes fall into two primary categories: felonies and misdemeanors. Felonies represent the more severe end of the spectrum, while misdemeanors typically encompass nonviolent offenses.

At McMinn, Logan & Gray, our Winston-Salem-based legal team boasts extensive experience in defending clients against both misdemeanor and felony charges. As part of our commitment to client education, this article will explain the difference between felony and misdemeanor charges, the impact these charges can have on your life, and how you can get help today.

Felonies vs. Misdemeanors

In simple terms, the primary divergence between these two types of offenses lies in their respective punishments. Here’s a breakdown of how misdemeanor and felony crimes are penalized in North Carolina.

Misdemeanors: Less Severe but Not Insignificant

While misdemeanors may be less severe than felonies in North Carolina, they should not be underestimated.

Misdemeanors in the state are categorized into four classes:

  • Class 3: Carries a maximum penalty of 20 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.
  • Class 2: Carries a maximum penalty of 60 days in jail and a $1,000 fine
  • Class 1: Punishable by up to 120 days in jail and a fine determined by the judge
  • Class A1: This represents the most serious category of misdemeanor, with a penalty of up to 150 days in jail and a discretionary fine.

Some common types of misdemeanor crimes include public intoxication, and shoplifting, trespassing. While misdemeanors are less severe than felonies, the consequences can be just as devastating. Exercising your right to a strong defense is vital to protect your freedom.

Felonies: Graver Offenses

Felonies are characterized by their more severe nature, often involving physical violence or actions that can inflict severe psychological harm. These offenses encompass manslaughter, murder, aggravated assault, and kidnapping, among others.

When convicted of a felony in North Carolina, prison time is a highly likely outcome. A seasoned criminal attorney is well-versed in North Carolina law and may identify avenues for sentence reduction.

North Carolina classifies felonies into ten distinct categories:

  • Class A felony: Punishable by death or life imprisonment, with or without parole.
  • Class B1 felony: Sentences range from 144 months to life imprisonment without parole.
  • Class B2 felony: Sentences vary from 94 to 393 months.
  • Class C felony: Punishments range from 44 to 182 months.
  • Class D felony: Sentences can span from 38 to 160 months.
  • Class E felony: Penalties may include 15 to 63 months in prison.
  • Class F felony: Convictions may lead to sentences of 10 to 41 months.
  • Class G felony: Offenders may face terms of 8 to 31 months.
  • Class H felony: Sentences range from 4 to 25 months.
  • Class I felony: Punishments may span from 3 to 12 months.

Sentencing considerations include the seriousness of the offense and the defendant’s prior criminal history. Judges also have the option to suspend sentences and impose probation or community-based penalties.

The Impact of Felony and Misdemeanor Crimes on Your Life

Facing felony or misdemeanor charges in North Carolina extends beyond the courtroom. These criminal offenses can carry significant collateral consequences that can profoundly influence various aspects of your life, both in the short term and the long term.

Misdemeanor Consequences:

While misdemeanors are generally less severe than felonies, they can still have substantial repercussions, including:

  • Criminal Record: A misdemeanor conviction can result in a permanent criminal record, which may be accessible to potential employers, landlords, and lenders. This can impact your ability to secure employment, housing, or loans.
  • Employment: Certain professions and job opportunities may be closed to individuals with misdemeanor convictions, particularly if the offense is related to the job’s responsibilities (e.g., theft-related misdemeanor and a job in finance).
  • Housing: Landlords may conduct background checks and may be hesitant to rent to individuals with a history of misdemeanor convictions, particularly if they involve violence or property damage.

Felony Consequences:

Felony convictions, being more serious in nature, can lead to even more profound collateral consequences, including:

  • Loss of Civil Rights: Felons may lose certain civil rights, such as the right to vote, possess firearms, or serve on a jury, depending on the conviction.
  • Professional Licenses: Many professions require state licenses, and a felony conviction can result in the revocation or denial of these licenses.
  • Immigration Consequences: Non-U.S. citizens with felony convictions may face deportation, exclusion from re-entry into the United States, or denial of naturalization.
  • Financial Implications: Felony convictions can impact your ability to access financial aid for education, secure loans, or obtain certain types of insurance.
  • Social Stigma: Felony convictions can carry a significant social stigma, potentially affecting personal relationships and community standing.

The consequences of criminal convictions extend well beyond the immediate legal penalties. Consulting with a defense attorney is essential to minimize the fallout.

Facing Criminal Charges? Consult a Winston-Salem Criminal Defense Lawyer

Whether you face misdemeanor or felony charges, it is imperative to consult a skilled and experienced criminal defense attorney promptly. Given the gravity of these offenses and their potential life-altering consequences, securing legal representation is vital.

At McMinn, Logan & Gray, our primary focus is advocating for your rights and pursuing your specific legal objectives. For an initial consultation with a knowledgeable member of our team, contact us today.


Author Bio

Derek M. Gray

Derek Gray is a Partner of McMinn, Logan & Gray, a North Carolina criminal defense law firm. With more than 15 years of experience in criminal defense, he has zealously represented clients in various legal matters, including DUIs, misdemeanors, felonies, domestic violence, and other criminal charges.

Derek received his Juris Doctor from the North Carolina Central School of Law in 2007 and is a member of the North Carolina State Bar Association. With his experience as a former Assistant District Attorney, he has represented more than 1,000 criminal defense clients in North Carolina and received more than 100 5-star Google ratings.

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