Misdemeanor or Felony, What's the Difference?

If you are facing criminal charges, one of the first things the judge will tell you is whether you are facing a misdemeanor or a felony. But why does that matter? What's the difference, anyway?

In this post I will define criminal misdemeanor and felony. I will provide several common examples of each. I will also explain the temporary and lasting differences between the two.

What is a Misdemeanor?

Misdemeanors are crimes charged by the state (not a city or municipality) that have a maximum sentence of 1 year or less in a local county jail. In Wyoming, misdemeanors are broken down into three categories. Class A are the most severe and tend to have 1 year maximum sentences. Class B misdemeanors may not list the maximum penalty right in the statute. They often involve:

  • Jail time of 6 months or less
  • Fines of $750 or less
  • Or both.

Class C misdemeanors usually do not result in jail time. Instead, a conviction results in fines, costs, and a period of probation. How you are sentenced is up to the judge assigned to hear your case. At sentencing, the court will consider the factors of your case and set a punishment that, with the help of a skilled criminal defense attorney, is usually less than the maximum penalty.

Common Wyoming Misdemeanors

There are too many misdemeanor crimes to list. However, some of the most common misdemeanors include:

What is a Felony?

Felonies are crimes punishable by death or incarceration in a state prison for more than 1 year. In Wyoming, the maximum punishment for each felony is set independently by degree in the statute. In addition to a federal prison sentence, a judge may also impose a fine of up to $10,000, depending on the felony charged. Generally, the more severe the crime, the higher the maximum sentence will be. Wyoming does allow capital punishment, so the most severe cases (like murder in the first degree) may result in the death penalty.

Common Wyoming Felonies

There are many different felonies as well. Some of the most common felony charges include:

The Lasting Consequences of Felonies

A felony conviction in Wyoming can have consequences that last long after any prison sentence is served. If you are convicted of a felony, you may lose certain rights such as:

  • The right to own a firearm
  • The right to vote
  • The right to hold public office.

You will also have to submit to a DNA test, and could lose your driver's license. Being labeled a felon can also damage your reputation and make it hard to find housing or employment. If you have been convicted of a sex crime, you may also have to register as a sex offender, which will further restrict where you can live and work.

A Criminal Defense Attorney Makes a Difference

There is a big difference between a misdemeanor conviction and a felony on your record. In many cases, our criminal defense team led by former prosecutor Christina L. Williams can negotiate with the prosecutors assigned to a case to reduce felony charges to a misdemeanor plea agreement. When that happens, our clients walk away knowing they avoided the lasting consequences a felony conviction can have on their lives and their families.

Get Help from Just Criminal Law

If you have been charged with a misdemeanor or felony in Wyoming or South Dakota, you need to know all of the risks before you agree to any plea. Our criminal defense team is ready to help you develop your case and understand the consequences of conviction. Contact us at our office in Gillette, Wyoming, at 307-686-6556, to schedule a free consultation with our staff.

DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this article is offered for educational purposes only. This information is not offered as legal advice. A person accused of a crime should always consult with an attorney before making decisions that have legal consequences.