Difference between Felony and Misdemeanor

Key difference: Felony and Misdemeanor are types of crimes which are distinct from each-other. A "felony" is a crime which involves a potential punishment of one year or longer in prison. While, a "misdemeanor" is a lesser criminal act which are punished less severe than felonies.

In US states like, Texas, California, Washington and several others, there have been the 3 strikes laws, according to which they are categorized. Hence, the most observed and considered crimes are the felonies and misdemeanor. Felonies are more serious crimes and carry much higher level penalties than the misdemeanor. There are separate laws and sections which distinguish these crimes, according to which the penalties and sentences are assigned.

A ‘felony’ is a serious type of a crime, often classified by degrees. The first degree felony is considered to be of the most serious type. The felonies are punishable by substantial fines and prison sentences in excess of one year. If a person who have convicted a felony and also he had previously convicted two or more serious crimes usually receive a life sentence. For example, murder or armed robbery comes under felonies.

A ‘misdemeanor’ is a crime of low seriousness; these are punishable by more substantial fines and sometimes jail time, and are usually less than one year. Misdemeanors are usually adjudicated in a shortened trial, and if any planned misdemeanor is committed, and if tits records are expunged, then there is an allowance, which helps the defendant to clearly explain their crime, and the changes, done by them.

Hence, if compared felony is a serious type of crime while misdemeanor is a less serious type of crime. Also, their types of sentences differ; the penalty for felony is based according its type of degree, while the penalty for misdemeanor is of less severe nature. The primary difference between misdemeanors and felonies is the amount of jail time that a convicted offender can be sentenced to serve. Many felonies are also broken down into classifications, or levels of seriousness, according to what punishments may be imposed. While, in case of misdemeanor the jail period sentenced is less than a year. If a person have committed a misdemeanor and cannot get the record expunged, there might be a help given to the defendant, if they are able to clearly explain the crime and the changes done by them since the time it occurred. Hence, depending upon the crime types and its nature the imprisonment is assigned to the defendant.

Comparison between Felony and Misdemeanor:




Types of Crimes

These are more severe crimes.

These are less severe crimes


Can go to state prison for more than 1 year, sometimes also to life imprisonment if the crime is too serious.

A sentence of less than 1 yr in county jail and/or fine.

Effects on Civil Liberties.

Complete loss of second amendment rights, right to vote, serve on jury and hold public office.

There is No effect on civil liberties.


  • Murder
  • Rape
  • Arson
  • Sale of illegal drugs
  • Grand theft
  • Kidnapping
  • Speeding
  • Driving without a license
  • Driving without insurance
  • Driving under the influence (DUI)


Image Courtesy: criminal.attorneywdkickham.com, smallbusiness.chron.com 

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