What is the difference between a felony and a misdemeanor?

Christine Blog

While interactions with the criminal justice system are seldom what anyone would call fun, one major factor that influences the tone of this type of encounter is the seriousness of the crime – which is based on both societal norms and crime as defined by the state. Drug crimes, sex crimes, traffic crimes can all run the gamut from infractions to felonies based on the nature of the crime committed. Since the seriousness of the crime will directly affect the arrest and judicial process of all defendants, Christine’s Bail believes some additional information would be helpful to the readers of this blog.

The least serious type of crime is called an infraction. These are minor offenses that result in no jail time, but only fines. These are also referred to as violations, and most people are familiar with them as traffic violations. If you get pulled over for speeding or running a red light, you will get a ticket and your insurance rates may go up, but you will not face jail time or even probation and nothing will go on your criminal record. While some people may choose to fight their traffic tickets in court with their own lawyers, the state is not responsible for providing people charged with infractions legal representation if they cannot afford to pay for a lawyer.

Another famous Michigan violation is the Ann Arbor civil infraction for marijuana possession which, for years was a $5 fine, but is now a $30 fine as well as $25 in court fees. Because this is a civil infraction with a low fine, University of Michigan students annually celebrate by committing it together on the Diag at Hash Bash.

Misdemeanors are more serious than infractions. In most states misdemeanors are crimes that are punishable by up to one year in prison. A defendant charged with a misdemeanor is entitled to a trial by jury and a lawyer provided by the state if he cannot afford to hire one. States classify misdemeanors according to their seriousness which affect the punishments and sentencing a convicted defendant receives.

In Michigan misdemeanors fall into three categories: 93-day misdemeanors, state law violations, and one-year misdemeanors. The first two categories carry a maximum sentence of 93-days in prison and $500 in fines (not including court costs). The third type carries a maximum sentence of one year in prison and $1,000 in fines (not including court costs). First time drunk driving offenses are 93-day misdemeanors, second offenses are state law violations, and third offenses are felonies.

Felonies are the most serious category of crimes committed, and, if convicted of a felony you can expect to be sentenced to at least one year in prison and up to life in prison (Michigan does not have the death penalty). Felony crimes often include threat of serious harm or harm to another individual, but they can also include non-physical offenses like fraud and forgery. Michigan subdivides its felonies into classes A to H, and the punishments vary accordingly. Felony crimes are the ones you hear about in the news: murder, armed robbery, home invasion, sexual assault, and domestic violence, but also include crimes like welfare fraud and false report of a felony. Multiple offenses of the same crime, as with drunk driving above, are also often felonies.

These are all of the different types of offenses you can be charged with in Michigan. If you or a loved one is arrested for a felony or a misdemeanor, Christine’s Bail has ample experience dealing with the court system in all counties in Michigan. If you call us, we can get you out of jail so you can determine your defense strategy and get back your normal life.

By: Christine Spoor