What is the difference between a felony and a misdemeanor?

Criminal offenses can be divided into two general categories:

  • ¬≠felonies -- a crime for which a person can be imprisoned for more than a year; and
  • misdemeanors -- an offense for which a person can be imprisoned for up to a year

The criminal process regarding misdemeanors may differ dramatically from the criminal process as it applies to felonies. The defendant charged with a felony is entitled to greater protections and as such the procedure in regard to a felony case may be considerably more prolonged than that involving a misdemeanor. It is not at all unusual that for a misdemeanor charge the defendant simply appears in court on one occasion, and after being advised of his or her right to have an attorney, the case is tried on that one occasion. A felony charge may result, however, in several court appearances, first a hearing in regard to the setting of bond, then an arraignment, then a preliminary hearing, then an appearance for the setting of a trial date, then the appearance for any pretrial motions, and then, finally the appearance for trial.

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