Felony and Misdemeanor Charges
Felony & Misdemeanor Criminal Defense Attorney – Serving Lake County / Northwest Indiana
In many states, crimes are divided into two groups, misdemeanors and felonies. There might be a third category of crimes, normally relatively simple crimes that are punished by fines and no jail time like some traffic violations. When charged with a crime, understanding the difference between felonies and misdemeanors, and the consequences of each becomes important.
These are the less serious crimes of the two, with common examples including minor theft, traffic offences like driving under the influence or with a drivers’ license that is suspended, and some minor drug related offenses. The categorizations are different from one state to another, with many states having their own categories and degrees. Still, even though they are the less serious categories, multiple misdemeanor charges can be brought up to an individual such that when sentenced, the years are served consecutively; when one charge ends, the other begins, and this can lead to years in jail equivalent to what one would have served had they committed a felony. Even simple misdemeanors can be serious sometimes.
Jail time, if any, will likely be served in local jails, which is a tradeoff between being close to friends and family, and having the benefit of a structured and less chaotic state prison. Depending on the severity, misdemeanor trials might be expedited, but they typically follow the script of the typical trial.
It is important o explore the differences in misdemeanor categorizations from one state to the next. For instance, in Indiana, they are divided into classes. Class A misdemeanors are the most serious, carrying jail time of a year and fines of up to 5,000 dollars. Class B are punishable by fines of up to 1000 dollars and up to 180 days in prison. Class C attract 60 days in jail and fines of up to 500 dollars. Statutes of limitations, the time within which the crime can be prosecuted, are typically relatively short in misdemeanor offences.
Felonies are the more serious crimes like murder, aggravated and grand theft or rape. Depending on the state, it might be required to obtain an indictment from a jury before charging the individual with murder. If convicted, the sentence will be served in federal or state prison. Felonies are also classified by class, and the categorizations may vary slightly from one state to the next. In Indiana, class A felonies are punishable by up to between 20 and 50 years of prison, and attract fines of up to 10,000 dollars. Class B will attract between 6 and 20 years, with fines of up to 10,000 dollars. Class C results in a minimum of two and a maximum of eight years in prison, with possible fines of up to 10,000 dollars. In Indiana, Class D felonies are those that are commonly referred to as wobblers. These are crimes that can either be charged as felonies or misdemeanors, depending on how the prosecution and sometimes the judge decide to proceed. If classified as a misdemeanor sentence, then it is punishable b up to 6 months in jail, but if sentenced as a felony, the jail term will be longer, up to three years, all with a possible fine of up to 10,000 dollars.
When convicted of class D felonies, unless the conviction is for specific charges like child pornography, domestic violence or if the person has a previous felony conviction, the court can decide to turn the conviction into a class A misdemeanor. In some cases, when certain conditions are met, the Class A felony can be converted into a class D misdemeanor after three years. Statutes of limitations are different for some felonies, though. The time starts when the crime is committed, and in Indiana, murder and class A felonies normally do not have a statute of limitation. They can therefore be prosecuted at any time after the ‘crime’.
It is important to note that felony or misdemeanor, some crimes have consequences regardless. For instance, in many states, it is required that one register as a sex offender when they commit certain crimes with a sexual element. Certain types of crimes, regardless of whether they were misdemeanors or felonies, might make one ineligible for certain types of licenses, especially if they involve some element of dishonesty or fraud.
Whether it is a felony or misdemeanor, or whether the boundaries are blurred, any charge represents a serious encounter with the justice system. Reading books and knowing about the distinctions between the two is certainly the first step. However, the practice of law is very different from knowledge of the law, and the only way one can safely navigate is when they are guided by a good lawyer. When dealing with any criminal charge, it is important to contact a lawyer who is experienced and qualified to handle the case. At Semko Law offices, this is just but one of our specialties. We have capable lawyers who have been trying criminal cases for a long time, and that know what it takes to make the law work for you. Contact us for help today.