While you and your future are better off keeping your criminal record as clean as possible, many people have a mischievous past from their high school or college days that they wish they could take back. Luckily, most crimes committed are only misdemeanors rather than felonies. But does that mean anything to you? Do you know the difference between them, and what to expect from the different severities? With all sorts of myths floating around regarding legal prosecution, its easy to get the two confused.
Let’s Start With Misdemeanors
Remember that crowd in high school that was constantly in trouble? You may have heard stories about how they shoplifted at the mall or egged the principal’s car on Friday nights. These crimes are generally considered less severe by law enforcement, although it may not seem that way for the victims involved!
Punishments for misdemeanors generally comprise a fine and possibly time spent in the county jail for less than a year. Once the fine is paid or jail time is up, most offenders tend to move on with their lives without any major consequences. Of course, this will charge will remain on your criminal record, so it may disqualify you from potential jobs. However, most employers understand the “no human is perfect” philosophy and often are willing to overlook misdemeanors, depending on the situation.
However, the more misdemeanors a person is convicted of, the more harsh courts will be in the future when determining punishment for other misdemeanors.
Now Onto Felonies
Felonies are misdemeanors on steroids, and the punishment definitely fits the size of this type of crime. Some examples of felonies include:
- Grand theft
After viewing a list like that, it might be a little more understandable how misdemeanors are considered smaller crimes in comparison. Felonies are so serious that if a person commits three in his or her lifetime in Texas, California or Washington, regardless if they are the same crime or not, he or she will automatically be given the life sentence.
Being convicted of a felony means losing your second amendment right, your right to vote and your right to serve on jury or hold public office. You will spend at least a year (probably more) in the state prison. You will often be disqualified from any employment candidacies, and landlords are likely to refuse your residence on their premises.
Drunk Driving… Misdemeanor or Felony?
Drinking and driving is typically a misdemeanor, depending on the severity. If you were to be pulled over for swerving on a quiet road, for example, the officer would likely write you up for a DWI, where you would be arrested and have a hefty fine. However, what happens if you hit someone else? Or even worse, what if you hurt or kill someone?
If another person falls victim to your drunk driving in any way, your charge will be upgraded to a felony. Additionally, depending on the state you are convicted in, a history of previous misdemeanors can add up to a felony, regardless of whether or not another person was affected.
Lindsay Bradshaw is a content developer for Kyle Law in New Braunfels. She was surprised to find out that misdemeanors can turn into felonies with enough reckless history.
Photo Credits: Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com
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