Nov 29, 2012

Felonies and misdemeanors

In certain states in America a misdemeanor in laymen’s terms is stealing a cookie out of the jar. A felony is eating the cookie. That’s the concept. An infraction is a traffic fine. When you speed on the highway it is a misdemeanor, you pay the fine and that’s that. When you speed on the highway and someone is killed as a result of your reckless driving it is vehicular assault and you spend time in jail; it’s a felony. Got it? The functional difference between the two rests with the penalty and the ‘power of imprisonment’. It is not whether someone convicted of a particular crime must be punished by a specific time in jail, but whether the person may be punished for a certain length of time or in a specific type of prison. 


In certain states all crimes punishable by death are felonies. In States such as New York, Rhode Island and New Hampshire a crime is a felony if it is punishable by more than a year in jail. In Arizona and Wisconsin a crime is a felony punishable by imprisonment in a state prison or penitentiary.  A misdemeanor is usually a crime punishable for a year or less in prison or only in a county jail.

Possession of a small quantity of weed a misdemeanor

There is also a wobbler. Some states also have alternative felony/misdemeanor crimes. A wobbler is a crime that can be charged as a felony or a misdemeanor based on circumstances and can be reduced to misdemeanor by a sentencing court. For instance, if you are found with a small bit of marijuana it might be a misdemeanor, but being in possession of a kilo of weed might lead to felony charges based on the volume of the drug.

In the procedural prosecution of felonies and misdemeanors there are not many differences. The government brings some sort of formal charges against you and accord you due process of law. The state follows more formal procedures to prosecute for a felony.

Lose the right to vote

Being convicted of a felony can have serious repercussions. You get a longer sentence, you lose the right to possess a firearm and hunting or fishing licenses. In some states you also lose the right to vote. You also have to disclose your status when applying for a job. A repeat felon faces much harder punishments especially where three-strike laws are in place. Go online for more information on felonies and misdemeanors in the United States.

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