Difference Between Felonies and Misdemeanors

July 17, 2019

The stress of being charged with a crime can be made worse when an individual does not fully understand the charges being brought against them. While being convicted of one crime may result in a mandatory jail sentence, other crime convictions carry a significantly lower punishment. Understanding the difference between a felony and misdemeanor is an important first step in defending these charges.

Felony Offenses

Under Pennsylvania law, crimes are classified into two major categories, felonies and misdemeanors. The class identification will govern what type of sentence is imposed should an individual be convicted of that crime. The following offenses constitute felonies in Pennsylvania:

  • Murder, including murder of an unborn child
  • Murder of a law enforcement officer
  • Aggravated assault with a deadly weapon
  • Involuntary manslaughter of child under 12 years old
  • Rape
  • Sexual offenses
  • Kidnapping
  • Arson
  • Burglary
  • Theft of property valuing over $2,000
  • Bribery
  • Possession of child pornography
  • Possession with intent to distribute

In Pennsylvania, sentences for first- or second-degree felony convictions can be up to 10 years; third-degree felony convictions have a maximum prison sentence of seven years. Separate sentencing guidelines apply to the more serious criminal charge of murder, which is a capital offense and can be found punishable by death or life imprisonment. A conviction for attempted murder or solicitation/conspiracy to murder can result in a prison sentence up to 20 years in absence of serious physical injury.

A felony conviction will result in certain restrictions on an individual, even after their jail sentence has been served. Under Pennsylvania law, convicted felons may not serve on a jury, run for public office, own or possess a firearm, or qualify for certain government benefits.

Misdemeanor Offenses

A conviction for a misdemeanor offense under Pennsylvania law generally results in a less severe punishment. The most common misdemeanor offenses in Pennsylvania include:

  • Simple assault
  • Stalking
  • Making terroristic threats
  • Certain offenses for driving under the influence (DUI)
  • Theft of items valued less than $2,000
  • Shoplifting
  • Bigamy
  • Public lewdness
  • Loitering
  • Prostitution
  • Disorderly Conduct

In Pennsylvania, sentences for first-degree misdemeanor convictions can be up to five years; second-degree convictions have a maximum of two years; and third-degree convictions have a maximum prison sentence of one year. Less serious crimes, which can result in a prison sentence of less than 90 days, are called summary offenses in Pennsylvania.

Defending Criminal Charges

Defending criminal charges often requires the assistance of experienced counsel familiar with Pennsylvania state law. An individual may be able to negotiate a felony charge down to a lesser misdemeanor offense by obtaining the assistance of an experienced criminal law attorney.

West Chester Criminal Defense Lawyers at the Law Offices of Heather J. Mattes Assist Individuals Charged with Felonies and Misdemeanors

If you or a loved one has been charged with a felony or misdemeanor offense, the experienced West Chester criminal defense lawyers at the Law Offices of Heather J. Mattes are here to help. We provide criminal defense services to individuals and will fight for the justice you deserve. Located in West Chester, Pennsylvania, we serve clients throughout Chester County, Bucks County, Delaware County, Lehigh County, Montgomery County, and Philadelphia County. To schedule a free consultation today, call us at 610-431-7900 or submit an online inquiry form.

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