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What's the Difference Between a Misdemeanor and a Felony?

Many people that have been charged with a crime do not fully understand the difference between the types of charges they face. While the terms “misdemeanor” and “felony” are often thrown around in legal texts, many people do not know exactly what makes them different from one another. Depending on whether you have been charged with a misdemeanor or felony, you could be facing as little as a few months to several years in jail upon conviction.

What is a Misdemeanor?

Misdemeanors in California are crimes punishable by no more than one year in county jail and a maximum $1,000 fine. While California has varying degrees of misdemeanors, they are not given a traditional letter classification like in other states. Instead, the courts use different guidelines in the penal code to determine how these crimes are sentenced. Given aggravating circumstances, however, a misdemeanor can sometimes be escalated to felony status.

What is a Felony?

Felonies are much more serious than misdemeanors and are punishable by at least one year in state prison. Certain felony offenses can expose defendants to life imprisonment or even capital punishment, such as a conviction for first degree murder. Unlike many states that have fixed ranges of punishments for felony offenses, California has a system of low, mid, and high-term sentences which a judge will choose on a case-by-case basis.

Violent or otherwise serious felony offenses can cause a person to receive a “strike” on their record in accordance with California’s “Three Strikes” law. If a person is convicted of a second serious or violent felony, they will face a double the sentence for the new felony and must serve at least 80 percent of their sentence before being eligible for release. If they are convicted of a third-strike violent offense, they will face a minimum 25 years to life sentence without the possibility of parole.

Facing Charges? Call (951) 682-5110

If you have been charged with a crime, it is urgent you retain powerful legal counsel as soon as possible to minimize your chances of serving serious consequences. At Blumenthal & Moore, our top-rated Riverside criminal defense lawyers can fight to protect your freedom and maximize your chances of securing a favorable outcome for your situation.

Schedule a no-cost consultation or contact us online today to review your legal options.

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