Misdemeanor vs Felony: What’s the Difference?


Let’s face it: From the moment you hear that you’re going to have a criminal record, the severity of the charges ceases to matter. Everyone can see that you’ve served time in prison. While that’s not supposed to prejudice potential employers, there is no law in place to prevent such discrimination.

However, among those willing to look deeper into your circumstances, whether you have a misdemeanor or a felony could be the deciding factor of your employment. What’s the difference between misdemeanor vs felony? How severe is one compared to the other? Here’s what you need to know.

What Is a Misdemeanor Charge?

First things first, let’s dig into misdemeanors. What is a misdemeanor charge?

Laws vary on a state-by-state basis, but misdemeanors typically include nonviolent crimes for which you will face only limited jail time. A list of common misdemeanors includes, but is not limited to:

  • The possession of certain drugs
  • Vandalism and graffiti
  • Drunken disorderly conduct
  • Shoplifting

While a misdemeanor charge is by no means great for your criminal record, these crimes usually don’t prejudice a potential employer or jury as much as a felony charge can. (For the record, a DUI charge will appear on your record as a misdemeanor!)

What Is a Felony Charge?

Now, let’s discuss the implications of a felony charge. What is a felony? By most definitions, a felony encompasses all violent crime and more than a few nonviolent crimes that are considered harmful due to extreme monetary loss or ill-gotten gain. The most common felony charges include, but are not limited to:

  • Tax evasion
  • Perjury
  • Aggravated or sexual assault
  • Kidnapping
  • Manslaughter and murder

A felony charge will typically carry both hefty fines and a lengthy stint in jail as consequences. However, depending on the strength of your criminal defense attorney, some of this could get mitigated.

Misdemeanor vs Felony: Which Is Worse for You?

It might seem like common sense that if you have to plead guilty to a misdemeanor vs a felony, you should take the misdemeanor. Misdemeanors are by far the lighter charges, look better on your criminal record, and carry fewer fines with less jail time. All the same, certain types of monetary misdemeanor could preclude you from jobs in the financial sector or retail businesses.

After all, you’d be hard-pressed to find a retailer that wouldn’t watch a known shoplifter like a hawk.

So, if you’re put in a position where people are pressuring you to cop to a misdemeanor rather than accepting a felony or other charge, contact the experts at Prentiss Law. They can help you understand your rights and fight to prove your innocence.

Looking for More Legal Basics?

In this article, we covered the basic differences between a misdemeanor vs felony. However, this is far from the only legal issue that can get murky to a layperson. So, if you’d like to learn more legal definitions, why not check out the Law section of our blog? We update each day with more clarifying articles like this one.