Criminal law can be confusing, and it is important to understand basic terminology. Even though the court system can be disorienting, having the right information makes the process easier, or at least more understandable.
If the courts are charging you with a crime, it is important to know how severe the charge is. According to FindLaw, misdemeanors are far less serious crimes than felonies and come with lighter sentencing requirements.
What should I know about misdemeanors?
The most important thing to know about misdemeanors is that, if the courts convict you of a misdemeanor, you will spend, at maximum, one year in prison. Essentially, the definition of a misdemeanor charges that it is not possible for you to spend more than one year in jail. Misdemeanors may also only involve fines and no time in jail. Even if you do receive jail time, it is likely you will spend this time in county jail as opposed to a prison.
Since misdemeanors are less serious than felonies, often prosecutors are open to plea bargaining. Many people often plead guilty to misdemeanors in order to avoid felony charges.
What should I know about felonies?
Felonies are the most serious variety of crime. Examples of felonies include arson, rape, kidnapping, and murder. Since these crimes are so serious, the courts follow criminal procedure precisely.
The punishment for a felony can range from over 1 year in prison to a lifetime. Often, the violent nature of a crime may play into how severe the penalty is. That is, if somebody dies during an act of arson, the courts will typically punish a perpetrator more harshly as compared to an act of arson with no deaths.