What is the Difference Between a Misdemeanor and a Felony?

The key difference to be aware of between a misdemeanor offense and felony offense is that felonies are more serious and result in significantly harsher penalties. The state of Tennessee draws a classification between more minor offenses, which result in misdemeanor charges, and the offenses that are classified as felonies and are more severely punished. It would be a mistake; however, to underestimate the seriousness of a misdemeanor charge. These offenses can still result in jail time, fines, a tainted record and more. Any conviction is a serious matter and can have repercussions in many areas of life. The distinction between a felony and a misdemeanor is only the first classification made, there are further levels and classes within these categories, take a look at Tenn. Ann. Code § 40-35-111 for more details. There are five different classes of felonies in Tennessee and the penalties vary, including:

  • Class A Felony- up to 60 years in prison and a fine of up to $50,000
  • Class B Felony- up to 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000
  • Class C Felony- up to 35 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000
  • Class D Felony- up to 12 years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000
  • Class E Felony- up to 6 years in prison and a fine of up to $3,000

Examples of felony offenses would be rape, child pornography, aggravated assault, serious drug possession, serious theft offenses and murder. If you suspect that the charges you are facing could result in a felony, it is crucial that you seek an aggressive and relentless criminal defense attorney. Misdemeanors are also serious charges to be looking at. Tennessee has three different classes of misdemeanors, here is the breakdown of potential penalties by class:

  • Class A Misdemeanor- up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $2,500
  • Class B Misdemeanor- up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $500
  • Class C Misdemeanor- up to 30 days in jail and a fine of up to $50

Some offenses that generally result in misdemeanor charges in Tennessee are assault, shoplifting, simple drug possession, trespassing, public intoxication, and prostitution. The main point of this classification of misdemeanor or felony is to help determine the potential punishment that may follow an alleged offense. If the penalties involve more than a year in prison, you are looking at a felony, and if the penalties call for a year or less in prison, you are looking at a misdemeanor. If you have any questions regarding this distinction or if you want to discuss the charges you are facing, contact The Claiborne Ferguson Law Firm, P.A. for a free case evaluation.