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Understanding the difference between felonies and misdemeanors

On Behalf of | Apr 7, 2020 | Criminal Defense |

An arrest can be unsettling even if this is not your first encounter with the law. You know the fight ahead will be crucial, and a conviction may drastically alter the course of your life. Understanding the charges and the ramifications of a conviction is important to building a strong and aggressive defense strategy.

One important factor to know is whether you are facing misdemeanor or felony charges. You may even be facing both if your situation is more complex. Do you understand the difference? Do you know how a conviction may affect you now and for the long term? The answers to these and other questions may help you prepare your defense strategy.

Misdemeanor charges

A misdemeanor is a serious charge though not as serious as a felony. If authorities have charged you with a misdemeanor, you may be facing up to a year in jail. Virginia’s criminal justice system divides misdemeanors into classes. Convictions for lesser crimes may lead to a few days in jail, if any, and higher misdemeanors carry the potential for longer sentences.

If a court convicts you of a misdemeanor and sentences you to incarceration, you will likely go to a local jail, not prison. You may even be eligible for parole or probation. However, it is better to avoid a conviction since having a stain on your record may hinder your opportunities for the future.

Felony charges

Felonies are quite serious and typically carry the potential for many years in jail or prison. If authorities have charged you with a felony, it is likely related to a crime involving violence or the loss or damage of property of great value.

A conviction for a felony count may result in a prison sentence as short as five years or as long as the rest of your life, depending on the class of felony in question. The death penalty is active but rarely used in Virginia. Felony penalties may also include fines reaching $100,000. However, even with a shorter sentence, you may find your life will never be the same.

Your future

No matter if you are facing felony or misdemeanor charges, you have much to lose. A criminal record can affect many aspects of your life. You may lose some of the rights as a citizen and will likely struggle to find meaningful employment. This is why it is wise to seek effective legal counsel as early as possible following an arrest for any type of criminal charge.


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