Whether or not you ever find yourself facing legal issues, it’s useful to have a working knowledge of everyday legal terminology. Criminal acts fall into two categories: misdemeanors and felonies. But what’s the difference? Which comes with a heavier punishment and what offenses are common among each? Let’s break it down.
Individuals charged with less serious and often nonviolent crimes usually face misdemeanor charges. This type of offense can range from petty theft and trespassing to public intoxication and possession of small amounts of marijuana, depending on the jurisdiction.
States use classification systems to determine penalties for both misdemeanors and felonies, and these punishments can vary by state. In most states, Class A crimes (or Class 1 in some areas) are more severely punished, while Class C (or Class 3) are less so.
In Utah, for example, Class A misdemeanors are punishable by a fine not to exceed $2500, no more than a year in jail or both, while Class C misdemeanors result in fines of $750 or less and up to ninety (90) days in county jail.
The most serious charge an individual can face is a felony. First, Second and Third degrees (in Utah) from most severe to least. These crimes are punishable by imprisonment. In Utah, the sentences are in determinant. That means the court can impose a 0-5 year sentence on a Third degree felony.
You could serve no more than five years but the Department of Corrections Board of Pardons/Parole determine if a person is released earlier. Felony prison terms can range from several months up to life. The death penalty may also be on the table in certain states. Murder, animal cruelty, tax evasion, pornography and threatening an official all fall in the felony category.
Along with punishment determined in a court of law, some felony charges also result in a loss of rights, such as voting or owning a firearm, and registration as a sex offender, even after time has been served.
While this website provides general information, it does not constitute legal advice. The best way to get guidance on your specific legal issue is to contact a lawyer. To schedule a meeting with an attorney, please call or complete the intake form below.
Greg S. Law, provides aggressive criminal defense representation in the Salt Lake City area and throughout the state of Utah, including cities such as Ogden, Provo, Park City, Sandy, Orem, Heber, Vernal, Duchesne, Roosevelt, Tooele, West Valley City, West Jordan, Kearns, Murray, Cottonwood Heights, Layton, Kaysville, Farmington, Centerville, Bountiful, Price, Moab, Cedar City and St. George. Salt Lake County ∙ Davis County ∙ Weber County ∙ Utah County ∙ Summit County (UT)