Crimes are classified as either a felony of a misdemeanor. Crimes that are misdemeanors typically have a fine attached to them, and could involve jail time that is at most 1 year long. Probation may be substituted for jail time in misdemeanor crimes that are not as severe. Felonies are crimes that come with sentences beyond a year in jail, and can even include the death penalty in extreme cases. By understanding how crimes are classified, you will be aware of the potential consequences for breaking the law.
Having possession of an illegal drug can be considered a misdemeanor. If there was any intent on selling the drug in your possession, the crime is increased to a felony charge. The reasoning is because selling drugs can cause another person harm, and results in a much stricter punishment beyond a single year of jail.
In order for an assault charge to be considered a misdemeanor, one person has to harm another person. Even a threat can be considered a misdemeanor crime, as it is not necessary to have some sort of physical interaction with the other person.
Assault charges are increased to felony crimes in certain situations, such as using a deadly weapon. Once again, contact does not need to be made. If you point a gun towards another person and threaten to use it, it would be considered a felony crime.
A theft could be a felony or misdemeanor depending on how severe the crime is. Unfortunately, the dollar amount of the theft varies from state to state. Most states set a limit of $500 on misdemeanor thefts, with anything more expensive than that considered a felony.
Crimes like driving without a valid license, driving under the influence of alcohol, and speeding are misdemeanors. Once again, the severity of these crimes can make them felonies. If you cause an accident in any of these three situations, the crime is upgraded to felony status.
Even if nobody is harmed due to breaking the law, repeat offenders are treated more harshly. Repeatedly driving under the influence of alcohol can raise a misdemeanor crime to a felony, which will bring a worse punishment with it.
While these situations can be confusing, there is a chance that you are being charged with a felony that should actually be a misdemeanor. If so, contact a lawyer that can help you reduce your charges so that the punishment fits the crime accordingly.
For more information, check out companies such as Hurth Sisk & Blakemore LLP.