If you are facing criminal charges, you probably know the reason why. Do you stand accused of breaking into a store to liberate some computer equipment, or perhaps of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol?
Whatever the charges, after an arrest it’s time to take some sensible steps in your defense. The first question to ask your lawyer is, how serious are the charges you face? In Utah and most other states, the basic difference between a misdemeanor and a felony is the penalty. Penalties tend to track with the seriousness of the crime. Misdemeanors and felonies are categorized — a felony is more severe than a misdemeanor, while a Class A misdemeanor is more serious than a Class C misdemeanor like public intoxication.
Types of misdemeanors include:
- Class A: Theft, assault of a police officer and negligent homicide
- Class B: Driving impaired, possession of marijuana under one ounce and some traffic offenses
- Class C: Lack of valid license, or driving on a suspended license
Types of felonies include:
- Capital offense: Aggravated murder
- First degree: Murder, rape, possession to distribute near a school and aggravated arson
- Second degree: Residential burglary, forcible sexual abuse and car theft
- Third degree: Non-residential burglary, some types of forgery and theft and possession of controlled substances
Both misdemeanors and felonies result in incarceration. A misdemeanor conviction is served in jail. A felony time is served in either jail or prison.
While misdemeanors are lesser crimes, conviction guarantees a criminal record that may mean lost educational, employment, social and volunteer opportunities far into your future. Whether misdemeanor or felony, the more serious the crime, the more impact it has on your life. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help minimize that impact.