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What is the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony?

Crimes generally fall into three categories: infractions, misdemeanors and felonies. Infractions, including parking violations, are the most minor crimes and are generally result in a ticket or fine. These generally don't carry the possibility of a jail sentence, though they can become serious matters if the fine goes unpaid. More serious crimes fall under the categories of misdemeanors and felonies. It's important for Maryland residents who have been accused of crimes to understand the distinction between the two.

The main difference between a misdemeanor and a felony is in the length of the possible jail sentence. A misdemeanor is punishable by up to a year's imprisonment. A felony is punishable by a year or more in prison.

Those who do serve time behind bars on a misdemeanor charge will generally stay in a county jail. Those convicted of felonies typically stay in a state prison.

However, it's important to note that many people convicted of a misdemeanor will not have to serve a jail sentence at all. Misdemeanors can cover a wide range of crimes, from certain traffic offenses to property crimes and somewhat more serious charges. Some of these are punishable by fines.

Often, those who have been convicted on misdemeanor charges may be able to have the conviction expunged from their records later. However, having a felony on file can follow a person around for the rest of his or her life, seriously limiting one's rights and ability to find employment.

With a strong defense, those accused of crimes may be able to avoid the penalties of misdemeanors or felonies in some cases. In others, the accused may be able to minimize the penalties through getting the prosecution to drop or reduce charges. Maryland criminal defense attorneys can help the accused to weigh all their legal options.

Source: FindLaw.com, "What Distinguishes a Misdemeanor from a Felony?" accessed Oct. 17, 2014

Post Type: Q&A

Anchor Text: Criminal defense

Keywords: Misdemeanor

Primary Target URL: /Practice-Areas/

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Law Offices of
James N. Papirmeister, Esq.

Law Offices of James N. Papirmeister, Esq.
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Silver Spring, MD 20910

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As Published in Washingtonian Magazine | Washington's Best Legal Minds | 2013