Television Commercial for Attorney Frank Walker

Saturday, October 10, 2009

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

Most states break their crimes into two major groups: felonies and misdemeanors. Whether a crime falls into one category or the other depends on the potential punishment. If a law provides for imprisonment for longer than a year, it is usually considered a felony. If the potential punishment is for a year or less, then the crime is considered a misdemeanor.

In some states, certain crimes are described on the books as "wobblers," which means that the prosecutor may charge the crime as either a misdemeanor (carrying less than a year's jail time as punishment) or a felony (carrying a year or more).

Behaviors punishable only by fine are usually not considered crimes at all, but infractions -- for example, traffic tickets. But a legislature may on occasion punish behavior only by a fine and still provide that it is a misdemeanor -- such as possession of less than an ounce of marijuana for personal use in California.

Pittsburgh Criminal Defense Attorney Frank Walker