What is the difference between a misdemeanor and felony offense?

On Behalf of | Feb 24, 2022 | Criminal Defense

When facing criminal charges, your future is on the line. Depending on the nature of the charges, you could face consequences that may range from minor fines to extensive time in prison. In order to know how to develop the most appropriate and effective defense strategy, you will find it beneficial to know as much as possible about the charges you are facing, starting with whether it is a misdemeanor or felony offense. 

There are significant differences between misdemeanor and felony offenses, but regardless of what you are up against, you would be wise to take your case seriously. The best defense strategy for your situation depends on the factors unique to your case, such as your criminal history. With the right defense strategy, a North Carolina defendant may be able to effectively confront the prosecution’s case and possibly mitigate some of the penalties he or she is up against. 

Misdemeanor criminal offenses 

These types of crimes are more serious than infractions, but they are less serious than felony offenses. In most cases, a misdemeanor is a crime that carries a potential jail sentence of less than one year. Sentencing in these cases depends on the type of misdemeanor. The classifications are: 

  • Class C — Jail sentence of more than five days but less than 30 days 
  • Class B — Jail sentence of more than 30 days but less than 60 days 
  • Class A — Jail sentence of more than six months but less than one year 

Felony criminal offenses 

Felony offenses are the most serious types of crime, and they are punishable by more than one year in prison. Sentencing for these offenses also depends on the classification of the crime, as follows: 

  • Class E — Prison sentence of less than five years but more than one year 
  • Class D — Prison sentence of less than 10 years but more than five years 
  • Class C — Prison sentence of less than 25 years but more than 10 years  
  • Class B — Prison sentence of 25 or more years 
  • Class A — Life in prison or death penalty 

As an individual charged with a crime, you have certain rights. You have the right to a presumption of innocence, and you have the right to challenge any of the evidence brought against you by the prosecution. You can begin preparing your defense strategy as soon as possible after an arrest, or even during the investigation stage.