There are significant differences between a misdemeanor and a felony offense. Consequences for misdemeanor convictions are less strict than punishments for felonies.
In general, misdemeanors are punishable by a fine and/or incarceration for less than a year in county jail – although specific offenses and individual jurisdictions are decisive factors. Misdemeanor infractions such as traffic violations usually have pre-set penalties.
In contrast, felony convictions normally lead to harsher punishments. Certain felony offenses may stipulate much higher fines as opposed to misdemeanors, and felonies may carry a sentence of more than a year in prison.
Some people think they are always provided with the right to a court appointed attorney if they face charges. This is not always true. If charged with a misdemeanor with no chance of jail, some jurisdictions will not provide a court appointed lawyer. However in a felony case, defendants being unable to afford an attorney could be appointed one since the stakes for a conviction are much higher.
In some jurisdictions, a felony is chargeable only after a Grand Jury indictment. In contrast, a misdemeanor complaint may be lodged with the court after receiving a written citation from a law officer.
Many court systems base “three strikes” laws on whether a defendant has had prior felony convictions. If a defendant has been convicted twice of a felony offense, one more felony conviction could subject him or her to life in prison.
Being convicted of a felony impacts the individual’s life to the highest possible degree. Convicted felons cannot serve as jurors. They lose their right to vote and to practice in certain professions. Owning a gun or serving in the military is also prohibited.
A person may be charged with a felony DUI if he or she has had prior DUI convictions within a specified time period. Some states take the person’s blood alcohol content (BAC) into account when determining the felony threshold.
A DUI felony conviction will lead to time in prison and expensive fines. In addition to these penalties, the offender will also lose his or her driving privileges. If you have recently been arrested for driving under the influence and believe you are facing the possibility of felony charges, you should immediately contact an experienced DUI defense attorney.