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What distinguishes a misdemeanor from a felony?

Misdemeanors:

  • Misdemeanors result in a jail sentence of less than one year incarceration and must be served in a city or county jail rather than a state or federal prison.
  • Defendants who can’t afford an attorney are not entitled to a court-appointed attorney.
  • A person convicted of a misdemeanor is allowed to vote, serve on a jury, practice in a licensed profession (such as law) and serve in the military.
  • Public drunkenness, resisting arrest and simple battery are misdemeanors. However, the same offense might be either a misdemeanor or a felony depending on its degree. Petty larceny (stealing an item worth less than a certain dollar amount) is a misdemeanor. Over that amount, the offense is grand theft (a felony). Similarly, the first offense of driving while intoxicated may be a misdemeanor. After a certain number of convictions for that same offense, the state may prosecute the next violation as felony drunk driving.

Felonies:

  • Felonies result in a jail sentence of more than one year incarceration and must be served in state or federal prison.
  • Defendants who can’t afford an attorney are entitled to a court-appointed attorney.
  • A person convicted of a felony is not allowed to vote, serve on a jury, practice in a licensed profession or serve in the military.
  • Robbery, kidnapping, rape and murder are examples of felonies.

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