Difference Between Felony And Misdemeanor

The primary difference between a felony and a misdemeanor is the severity of the crime and the potential punishment, with felonies being more serious and punishable by more than a year in prison, while misdemeanors are less serious and punishable by less than a year in jail or a fine.

Difference Between Felony And Misdemeanor

The criminal justice system divides crimes into two categories: felonies and misdemeanors. The classification of a crime as a felony or misdemeanor depends on the seriousness of the offense and the potential punishment. Both types of crime have different consequences, and it is crucial to understand the difference between the two.


A felony is a significant criminal offense that is punishable by more than a year in a state or federal prison. Felony crimes involve serious harm to an individual or society as a whole, such as murder, rape, arson, burglary, or drug trafficking. Felonies are typically classified into different degrees depending on the severity of the crime. For example, first-degree murder is the most serious type of homicide, and it is often punishable by life in prison or the death penalty.

A felony conviction can have severe consequences beyond incarceration, including the loss of civil rights, such as voting, serving in the military, owning firearms, and much more. A convicted felon may also experience difficulty in finding employment, housing, and education, as most employers and landlords do not hire or rent to individuals with felony convictions. Felony convictions can also impact child custody, immigration status, and professional licensing.


A misdemeanor is a less severe criminal offense that is punishable by less than a year in a county jail or a fine. Misdemeanor crimes typically involve less harm to individuals or society than felony crimes, such as traffic violations, disorderly conduct, public intoxication, and minor drug offenses. Some states categorize misdemeanors into different classes, with Class A misdemeanors being the most severe and Class C misdemeanors being the least severe.

Misdemeanor convictions carry less severe consequences than felony convictions, but they can still have a negative impact on a person's life. A convicted misdemeanor offender may experience difficulty finding employment or housing, and some states may strip an individual's right to own firearms, vote, or serve on a jury. However, misdemeanors have a far lesser impact on rights and privileges than felony convictions.

Key Differences between Felony and Misdemeanor

The primary differences between a felony and a misdemeanor are the severity of the crime and the punishment that follows. Here are some key differences between the two:

1. Punishment - Felony convictions have punishment that includes lengthy imprisonment, fines, and other severe penalties, whereas the punishment for misdemeanor convictions includes relatively shorter imprisonment, fines, suspension of driving license, and other lesser penalties.

2. Conviction standards - The standard of proof required to convict someone for a felony crime is beyond a reasonable doubt, but for misdemeanor crimes, the standard required is preponderance of the evidence.

3. Location of trial - Federal courts and state courts can both try felony and misdemeanor offenses. However, trials for felony cases are usually in district courts or superior courts, whereas misdemeanor cases are often heard in municipal or city courts.

4. Criminal record - Felony convictions provide lifetime criminal records, and it remains in one's record for a lifetime. But Misdemeanor convictions typically stay on one's record for only a few years, depending on the state's law, before they can be sealed or expunged.

5. Loss of Rights - Individuals convicted of a felony lose several rights, such as the right to vote, the right to bear arms, and the right to run for office. However, misdemeanor convictions do not lead to loss of these rights.

6. Social stigma - Felonies often carry a more severe social stigma than misdemeanors, which can impact the individual's ability to move on and obtain employment in the future.


Knowing the difference between a felony and a misdemeanor is essential, as it can affect the potential punishment, rights, and lifelong consequences an individual can face. A felony crime is much more severe than a misdemeanor crime, and it carries harsher punishment, loss of rights, and a lifetime criminal record. In contrast, a misdemeanor crime carries less severe punishment, can still impact one's life, but usually with lesser penalties.

It is extremely important for everyone to understand that both felony and misdemeanor crimes do have consequences, and one must make the right choices to avoid committing such offenses. When facing criminal charges, always seek legal help and counseling for the best possible outcome.