What Are Felonies and How Are They Different from Misdemeanors?

What Are Felonies and How Are They Different from Misdemeanors?

Getting charged with a crime is always a scary experience, but being charged with a felony can be especially terrifying says Clint Broden a reputable criminal defense lawyer Anyone who is facing a felony charge should be well-informed about the differences between a misdemeanor and a felony, as well as the possible consequences of a felony conviction.

In Texas, traffic ticket other minor offenses, such as jaywalking, littering, and not wearing your seatbelt while driving, generally only result in a fine. They are considered Class C misdemeanors.

You should never ignore a ticket, because you may end up with a warrant for your arrest.

What Is a Misdemeanor?

A misdemeanor is a criminal offense that is more serious than an infraction, but not as serious as a felony. Because of each jurisdiction, including each state, has its own criminal code, what constitutes a misdemeanor in one jurisdiction may not be exactly the same as a misdemeanor in another jurisdiction.

Although each jurisdiction has its own classification system for misdemeanors — as well as felonies — the breakdown of misdemeanors varies. However, it’s typical for jurisdictions to list misdemeanors in order from less serious to most serious. For example, a “petty misdemeanor” is generally one that is non-violent and punishable by a fine only. As Black’s Law Dictionary states, “If you’re charged with a petty misdemeanor, there’s virtually no chance you’ll be sent to prison.”

In many cases, however, higher-level misdemeanors are punishable by jail time, in addition to fines. Upon conviction or a plea agreement, a defendant may also have to perform community service, complete an educational or treatment program, or serve probation. The type of punishment associated with a misdemeanor conviction depends on the type of crime and the defendant’s criminal record. For example, the law often allows the court more flexibility in sentencing in cases where the defendant has no prior criminal record.

While many people tend to associate misdemeanors with state law, it is possible to be charged with a federal misdemeanor. However, it is true that the majority of federal crimes are, in fact, charged as felonies. If you’ve been charged with a misdemeanor, there is a good chance your case falls under state law.

Under federal law, a Class C misdemeanor is punishable by up to 30 days in prison, a Class B misdemeanor is punishable by up to six months in prison, and a Class A misdemeanor is punishable by up to one year in prison.

Generally speaking, any imprisonment associated with a misdemeanor conviction is served in a state jail rather than a federal prison. Keep in mind, however, that it’s possible for someone to be charged with multiple misdemeanors that each carry specific jail terms. While the maximum sentence for one conviction may seem like a relatively short time, consecutive sentences may mean that a defendant ends up spending several years in a state jail.

What Is a Felony?

Felonies are the most serious criminal offenses, and they carry the most severe punishments. Unlike state laws, the federal law follows the Federal Sentencing Guidelines set forth by the United States Sentencing Commission, which imposes strict rules on minimum and maximum punishments for federal misdemeanors and felonies. As a general rule of thumb, felonies are subject to prison sentences that exceed one year.

Under federal law, a Class A felony is punishable by life imprisonment, and certain crimes carry the death penalty. Federal law also allows a punishment of “25 years or more” for a Class B felony conviction. For a Class C felony conviction, the punishment is “less than twenty-five years but ten or more years.”

Generally, individuals who are required to serve prison time as a result of a felony conviction are sentenced to time in a federal prison rather than a state-run jail.

Why It’s Important to Work with an Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyer

Whether a criminal defendant is facing an infraction, misdemeanor, or felony, it’s important to be informed about the type of case and the potential consequences. While it’s possible to handle most infractions on your own, the same generally isn’t true for misdemeanors and felonies. These types of offenses can result in a permanent criminal record that has a lasting impact on your reputation, career, family, and personal life. This is why it’s generally advisable to work with an experienced criminal defense lawyer who can help you protect your rights and obtain the best income possible in your case.

Read: Our our blog post on selecting a criminal defense lawyer.

Broden & Mickelsen
Dallas Criminal Defense Lawyers in Dallas

Broden & Mickelsen, LLP
2600 State St Dallas, Texas 75204
Main Phone: (214) 720-9552


Prior results cannot and do not guarantee or predict a similar outcome with respect to any future case. Recoveries always depend upon the facts and circumstances of each case, the injuries suffered, damages incurred, and the responsibility of those involved.


  1. https://www.avvo.com/legal-guides/ugc/type-of-crime-infractions-traffic-tickets
  2. http://criminal.findlaw.com/criminal-law-basics/misdemeanors.html
  3. http://thelawdictionary.org/article/will-i-go-to-jail-for-a-misdemeanor/
  4. https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/3559
  5. https://www.ussc.gov/guidelines

At Broden & Mickelsen, LLP, we are experienced Dallas criminal defense lawyers are dedicated to providing aggressive and ethical representation to individuals and businesses charged with crimes.