Last updated on November 3, 2015

Criminal Charges: Misdemeanors vs. Felonies and Degrees of Seriousness

Interviewer: A lot of people are unaware of some of the technical jargon that goes with the levels of misdemeanors and felonies; can you go into that a little bit? Can you explain when they refer to a second degree or a first degree in terms of misdemeanors and felonies?

Paul Tafelski: Usually, misdemeanors vary depending upon the maximum length of time you can get in jail. A typical misdemeanor is up to 93 days in jail. Some misdemeanors such as the super drunk law are six months of maximum jail time. Other misdemeanors such as retail fraud, second degree drunk driving, and second offenses have a one year maximum jail time. The difference between misdemeanors is the maximum amount of jail time. Felonies are somewhat the same. Different felonies have difference maximum punishments. Typically the more maximum the punishment, the worse the crime is going to be.

Alternatives to Jail Sentences after Being Convicted in a Criminal Case

Interviewer: Are there any alternative punishments to jail that someone may qualify or that you could get someone into?

Paul Tafelski: It depends upon what court you’re in. For example, some courts will have a first offender program for retail fraud and other courts don’t have that. Some courts will have a sobriety court for drunk driving cases which allows people to maintain a drivers license where they otherwise would have had a revoked license. Some programs exist for people who are under the age of 21 and have never been in trouble before that allow them to keep even felonies off their record.

Some places will, in some situations, have a first offence drug case taken under advisement and then ultimately dismissed if you complete probation. There are a lot of different alternatives out there even for crimes such as a domestic violence first offense. We often can find a diversion program that people can use to keep their record clean. It really is on a case by case basis and depends on which court you’re in, what you’re charged with, what your prior record is and things like that. There are often a lot of things we can do to minimize the problem and help protect your record for the future.

Posted in: Criminal Defense
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