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What are the Differences Between Felonies and Misdemeanors?

Criminal charges are generally split into two main categories: felonies and misdemeanors. Other types of offenses, petty offenses, are usually just punishable by fines and have no jail time involved. Local magistrates process these charges, with the entire hearing process taking less than a day to resolve. Examples of petty offenses include tickets for speeding, or other minor violations. They will never see jury trials. 

Felonies and misdemeanors, however, are more serious offenses and are likely to have a more complex legal process. 

Misdemeanors are punishable by larger fines and occasionally jail time. Jail time for misdemeanors generally is less than a year, usually served in a local or county jail as opposed to a federal or state correctional facility. Misdemeanor trials generally are short and do not come with court-appointed lawyers if they are unable to afford their own. Depending on the type of misdemeanor in the case, there may be a jury trial. 

Felonies are the most serious type of offense and are further broken down into degrees, with first degree felonies being the most serious type of crime. In many cases, a prosecutor has to procure an indictment from a grand jury before they are able to charge a person with a felony crime. Punishments for felonies could include large fines and prison sentences longer than a year. Those convicted of felonies are likely to serve their time in federal or state prisons. If a person cannot afford an attorney for their crime, the court is required to provide them with one. 

For more information on misdemeanors and felonies and the differences between the two, speak with a knowledgeable southern Maryland criminal defense attorney at Mudd, Mudd & Fitzgerald, P.A. 

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