What’s the difference between a felony and misdemeanor?

What if you just got pulled over for a suspected DUI? The police officer says he thinks you were driving while impaired. He gives you a field sobriety test and requests that you take a breathalyzer test as well. In all 50 states the test has been set at .08% blood alcohol concentration (BAC) as the legal limit for driving under the influence or driving while impaired (DWI). The amount is even less if you are a commercial driver, it is .04% (BAC). For those under 21, do not even think about driving while intoxicated. There is a zero tolerance when it comes to you. So, is this DUI or DWI a felony or a misdemeanor and what is the difference?


What is a misdemeanor?

Misdemeanors are more serious than getting a speeding ticket, for example, but less serious than a felony. Depending on which state you live in, the severity of misdemeanors varies by what is called degrees. It can be first-degree, which is very serious and can include charges such as carrying a weapon without a permit or petty theft. Charges for second- degree can include things like obstructing a business official or abusing a corpse. Third-degree misdemeanor charges can be illegal cultivation of marijuana or vandalizing public property. Fourth-degree charges include things such as failure to disperse and selling contaminated food. Minor misdemeanor charges can include disorderly conduct and failure to aid an officer.

Some of the punishments can also vary depending on the state you live in, and what the charges are. It also depends on whether they are first degree, second, third, fourth or minor charges.

  • You can pay restitution, if you damaged someone’s property
  • Misdemeanor fines can be anywhere from $50 to $2,000.
  • You could get probation. It is a way for the court system to keep tabs on the defendant. The court can decide how long probation will be and even extend it if necessary.
  • You could get jail time. Most of that time is spent in local jails instead of a high security prison.

What is a felony?

A felony is the most serious crime you can commit. The type of crime you commit depends on its severity. First-degree crimes include murder and arson. Second-degree felonies include crimes such as aggravated assault and manslaughter. Third-degree cases include your DUI or DWI, and fraud. Finally, fourth-degree could include charges such as burglary or resisting arrest. The penalties for felonies can be severe. It could be years in a high-security prison, depending on your crime.

No matter what crime is committed it is good to know the laws. If you have committed a crime and need help, you should probably consider speaking to a criminal attorney who can help.

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