In a way, the relationship of felony vs. misdemeanor is similar to the relationship between a mountain and a hill. While both types of crimes may often overlap with one other, with distinctions sometimes based purely on such things as monetary values of stolen possessions or the exact amount of controlled substances found on an individual when arrested, essentially a felony conviction connotes that the crime at hand was serious enough to result in a prison sentence of at least one year.
Misdemeanors, on the other hand, usually imply an imprisonment term of less than one year. The sentence is commonly served out at a local or county jail, not a State or Federal penitentiary. If a sentence issues no jail time whatsoever, the crime is termed an infraction, which is a subset of a misdemeanor.
Thus, the meaning of the felony vs. misdemeanor relationship is one of degree. Much like felonies, though, misdemeanors will certainly be assigned a monetary fine that can range anywhere from $200 to about $10,000, far less than the $250,000 fine a Federal felony may potentially result in, and additional punishments, like mandatory rehabilitation programs and community service, will typically be applied as well.
Also like felonies, misdemeanors will be grouped into classes based upon the severity of the crime. For the majority of State classifications, the categories are Class 1 misdemeanors through Class 4 misdemeanors, but in the end every State will have their own sentencing structure.
Another felony vs. misdemeanor separation includes the legal process during which the convictions are carried out. For example, as opposed to felony cases, misdemeanor offenses will typically not assemble a grand jury to charge the offender, but will rather apply a conviction using faster procedures in special courts.
If the case involves a repeat criminal offender, or if an offender specifically wants a jury trial which he or she will have to first request and then, if granted, pay a fee for, a grand jury may in fact be called together.
Additionally, the majority of misdemeanor offenders will not be afforded the right of having a lawyer supplied for their trial. Other general felony vs. misdemeanor variations, which again depend on the specific felony vs. misdemeanor laws of a State, include the following:
Misdemeanors include crimes along the lines of trespassing, vandalism, prostitution, most DUI, DWI, and reckless driving charges, petty theft (like shoplifting), public intoxication, indecent exposure, and disorderly conduct.
Felonies include, but are not limited to, murder, rape, kidnapping, aggravated assault, burglary and other property theft like arson and motor vehicle theft, almost all assault and neglect cases involving a minor, forgery, counterfeiting, and practicing without a license.
Misdemeanors do not result in revoked voting, military, gun rights, and other civil rights. Convicted misdemeanor offenders still have the potential of working within licensed professions like law, teaching, and nursing.
Convicted felons temporarily (or permanently, in some cases) lose their right to vote, serve in the military or on a jury, bear arms, and hold public office. After their allotted punishments are completed, felons will also often have a very hard time finding insurance, jobs which require occupational licensing, jobs in public office, jobs for larger companies, jobs working with children, and jobs working with explosive and other potentially dangerous material. If the felony conviction involves a sexual crime like a rape or sexual assault of a minor, he or she will be required to register as a sex offender as well.