Virginia residents may be interested in learning what distinguishes a misdemeanor from a felony. Across the United States, most crimes are divided into different categories based on how serious they are. This category then determines the way that the court will treat the particular case. In most cases, individuals will serve a different amount of time in jail or prison if they commit a felony as opposed to committing a misdemeanor.
There are infractions of the law that are considered to be relatively non-serious. For example, a police officer may see a person jaywalking and write them a ticket. The individual who receives the ticket will have to pay a fine, but there is usually no jail time involved or court case. However, if the individual does not pay the fine, classification of this crime may increase, and the potential fines and penalties they receive may also increase.
A misdemeanor is more serious than an infraction. Misdemeanors can be punishable by up to one year in jail. Misdemeanors may require a person to spend time in a local jail as opposed to a high-security prison. In some states, a misdemeanor is a crime that does not classify as an infraction nor as a felony. Prosecutors are given a large degree of flexibility when determining how to classify a crime and the types of plea bargains that may be available.
Felonies, on the other hand, are serious crimes. They may be punishable by prison sentences of one year or more. Because of the severity of the potential punishment, strict procedures must be observed to guarantee that the rights of the defendant are protected.
Whether a person is accused of a white-collar crime or a violent crime, they may wish to enlist the services of a criminal defense attorney. Criminal defense attorneys may provide assistance to their clients from the investigation phase all the way to trial and sentencing.