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Understanding the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony

Being accused of any crime is a serious situation for individuals in New York and elsewhere. Whether is it considered a minor or major offense, those suspected of a crime should take criminal accusations seriously. Moreover, it is important to understand the situation at hand, the crimes faced by the defendant and the potential penalties the accused can endure.

While many believe that being charged with a misdemeanor should not be treated as seriously as a felony, the truth is that those accused of a crime should treat every criminal allegation seriously, no matter the magnitude of the crime or harshness of the possible consequences on could face. Nonetheless, one should understand the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony and how it might impact a defendant's criminal defense strategy.

Generally, a misdemeanor and a felony are differentiated by how much potential jail time an offender could face. While an infraction, such as a simple traffic violation, amounts to a fine and usually little to no jail time, a misdemeanor is a crime that is punishable by up to one year in jail. In most cases, when an offender is charged with a misdemeanor, prosecutors have the greatest degree of flexibility when it comes to how to charge the crime, how to punish the offender and what kind of plea bargain to negotiate.

Felonies, on the other hand, are the most serious types of crimes. These crimes are punishable by a prison sentence greater than one year, and in some cases, could result in very severe penalties. In most cases, these are crimes that are viewed by society as serious and offensive.

Whether people reduced a felony charge to a misdemeanor or are currently facing misdemeanor charges, it is important to understand the outcomes and consequences of such charges. Additionally, defendant should consider the defense options available to them, which can help them better navigate way to reduce or even dismiss the charges against them.

Source: Criminal.findlaw.com, "What Distinguishes a Misdemeanor From a Felony?" accessed Sept. 4, 2016.

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