What’s the Difference Between a Felony and a Misdemeanor?

When you’re charged with a crime, it’s helpful to learn everything that you can about the charges against you. In Michigan, a crime can be a felony or a misdemeanor. There are significant differences in these two categories of crimes.

The basics

A misdemeanor is punishable by up to one year in jail. Even if the judge wants to give you the max, they can’t sentence you to more than 365 days in jail. With good time, you might even serve less than that.

That means if you’re facing a misdemeanor charge, there’s no way that you can go to prison for that charge. At the worst, you’re looking at a long stint in a county jail. Prison is off the table for you, even if you’re guilty as charged.

A felony can bring more than one year in jail. As soon as the crime is punishable by more than one year in jail, it’s classified as a felony. That means that the judge can sentence you to prison. Even if you’re charged and convicted of a felony, you’re not necessarily going to prison. The judge still has discretion to sentence you to county jail for the offense. The exact sentence depends on what you’re ultimately convicted of and the specifics of the case.

How a misdemeanor proceeds

If you’re facing a misdemeanor charge, your case starts in district court and ends in district court. Your Traverse City misdemeanor lawyer can help you defend the charges there. There’s no way for the state or the court to move the case to a circuit court. You’ll have an arraignment followed by a pre-trial conference. If your case proceeds to trial, that comes next. If you’re convicted, you’ll have a sentencing. If there are mitigating circumstances or the police violated your due process rights, your misdemeanor attorney Traverse City can ask the court or the state’s attorney to dismiss the charges against you.

How a felony proceeds

A felony also starts in district court. You’ll have what’s called an arraignment, and your Traverse City felony attorney can accompany you at all stages of the proceedings. Next, you’ll have what’s called a preliminary exam. This is where the state has to show there’s probable cause to believe that you committed a felony. It’s important to have a Traverse City felony lawyer with you for this proceeding, because it’s extremely helpful to understanding the state’s case against you.

Only if the district court approves it can the case move to circuit court. Once it’s in circuit court, you have another arraignment. This is your chance to hear the charges in the information against you. You’ll likely have a pre-trial conference. There are opportunities for your felony attorney Traverse City to help you ask for discovery of the evidence against you. You have a right to a trial in your case. If you’re convicted, you’re sentenced by the circuit court judge.

Work with us

All criminal charges are serious. If you’re facing a misdemeanor or felony charge in Traverse City or anywhere in Northern Michigan, we invite you to contact us. We can help you prepare your best defense possible.

Call us today at (231) 486-6366 for a free consultation.