Misdemeanor vs. Felony


Felonies are more serious crimes that carry much higher penalties (jail term) than misdemeanor. In states like Texas, California, Washington and several others that have the 3 strikes law, persons convicted of a felony who have been previously convicted of two or more violent crimes or serious felonies usually receive a life sentence.

For example, murder or armed robbery are felonies while shoplifting is a misdemeanor. In several states, possession of small amounts of marijuana has been downgraded to a misdemeanor. The penalty for misdemeanors often involve only a fine and no jail term. If a jail term has been ordered, it is usually less than 1 year.

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Severity More severe crimes Less severe crimes
Examples Murder, robbery, grand theft Shoplifting, domestic fight
Punishment Can go to state prison for more than 1 year A sentence of less than 1 yr in county jail and/or fine
Effect on civil liberties Complete loss of second amendment rights, right to vote, serve on jury and hold public office No effect on civil liberties

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