Differences Between A Felony And A Misdemeanor
You recently expressed to us your concerns over the death penalty is convicted of the crime of breach of peace. Kindly note that this is not possible, as the crime you are accused of is usually classified as a misdemeanor, while the death penalty is purely reserved for a first degree felony. There are two different categories of crimes: felonies and misdemeanors.
A felony refers to a highly serious crime, which is punishable either by death or a prison term of at least more than one year. The individual crimes for which an individual may receive a prison term of more than one year may include but are not limited to: murder, robbery, aggravated assault, arson, burglary, sale and distribution of illegal drugs, fraud (though in various forms), grand larceny, kidnapping, federal property vandalism, treason, perjury or even cheque fraud.
These felonies are then classified into two broad categories, nonviolent or violent offences. The latter encompasses crimes that do not involve the use of force or the threat of using force. This may include crimes such as vandalism, fraud, sale and distribution of illegal drugs, treason, cheque fraud and perjury (Johns, 2006). The former, encompasses crimes in which there was a threat to use force or force was actually used, as would be the case in robbery, murder, aggravated assault, arson or kidnapping. At times or in some states, even certain property crimes which bring about psychological trauma may also be considered as violent crimes, with the likes of burglary usually considered a misdemeanor being graduated to a felony, more so if intent to commit felonies such as battery, assault or even larceny can be established.
Felonies are further classified depending on their seriousness, with letters or numbers being used depending on the state in question. For example, a Class A felony in New York, refers to crimes of high seriousness such as treason or murder, and in most cases carry a penalty of life imprisonment or even the death penalty. Class B felonies usually entail less serious but nonetheless serious crimes that are a step below the first class mentioned. This class encompasses crimes such as armed robbery, rape, violent assault, homicide or even drug trafficking, with the range of sentences being 25 years or more. Class C felonies attract prison terms of at least ten years or more but less than 25 years, and entail moderately serious crimes such as fraud, certain types of assault, robbery or theft, as well as larceny. Class D felonies even though as serious as class C, do not usually carry a similar degree of malice. These types of crimes are like manslaughter, burglary, theft, robbery, as well as certain forms of fraud. Class D felonies usually attract prison terms of between 5 to ten years. A class E felony on the other hand falls at the lower end of the spectrum and is ranked as the lowest felony charge in New York, encompassing charges such as aggravated harassment or forcible touching (Bolton, 2008). In most cases these types of felonies attract sentences of between 2 to 5 years, while in rare cases may even result in non-custodial dispositions. This classification system is employed in most states, although a slight difference may exist in how they are named. In other states, like for instance Virginia, felonies are classified according to numbers, which actually correspond to the letters, whereby 1 corresponds to A and 2 corresponds to B and so forth. The punishments these felonies attract are also similar, although in some states the death penalty does not exist and is therefore substituted by life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.
A misdemeanor on the other hand, refers to crimes of a not so serious nature, punishable in most cases by the imposition of monetary fines. The main difference between a misdemeanor and a felony is the fact that the former is punishable by an incarceration term of one year or less, despite the seriousness, while felonies are punishable by at least one year or more. A misdemeanor is essentially considered the opposite of a felony: a crime of low seriousness, with the measure of seriousness being how it affects the society or other people. Crimes that may fall under misdemeanors include: breach of peace, prostitution, disorderly conduct, simple assault, vandalism, trespassing, petty theft, and possession of certain drugs such as marijuana among others (Scheb, 2002).
Similar to felonies, misdemeanors are also classified depending on their seriousness and the type of punishment they would attract. Further, letters or numbers can be used, ranging from A to C or 1 to 3. A class A misdemeanor is usually the most serious and carries penalties of a fine of up to $10,000 or a prison term of up to 9 months, although in the cases of a repeat offender it may entail a prison term of up to 2 years. Due to the variance in how different states define misdemeanors, providing examples may be difficult as in most cases it depends on which state the crime was committed. Class B misdemeanors attract a prison term of up to 90 days or a fine of $ 1000 in most states, although similar to class A, repeat offenders may attract a prison term of up to 2 years. The lowest class of misdemeanors: class C, attracts a prison term of up to 30 days or a fine of up to $500, with the same conditions as in the previous two classes applying for a repeat offender (Burke, 2006). The value of the fines may also vary depending on the state in question, with the option of being forced to pay both the fine and serve the prison term being a possibility.
Another distinct difference when it comes to felonies and misdemeanors is the fact that felons usually serve their prison terms in federal prisons, while misdemeanants usually serve their terms in county or local jails. It is also important to note that the sentencing for misdemeanors is usually the prerogative of the judge, and sentences may, therefore, be more than a year or carry additional probation following the prison term or other penalties (Moxon & Hedderman, 1994).
Clearly as described above, your crime, Ms. Singh, does not fall in any of the felony classes, let alone class 1 felonies which are the only ones capable of attracting the death penalty. Further, seeing as this is your first misdemeanor, the longest sentence possible is one year, and you therefore do not need to worry about a long prison sentence. Perhaps you might not even need to worry about any prison sentence, considering that a fine is a very big possibility (Ides & May, 2006).
Bolton, J. (2008). Misdemeanors & Felonies: A Memoir. Swamprighter Publisher.
Burke, P. (2006). The Criminal Law, And Its Sentences, In Treasons, Felonies, and Misdemeanors: With A Supplement Including All Statutable Alterations And Additions Down To The Present Time. Oxford University Press.
Ides, A. & May, C. (2006). Civil Procedure: Cases and Problems. Aspen Publishers.
Johns, M. (2006). The United States Legal System: An Introduction. Carolina Academic Press
Moxon, D. & Hedderman C. (1994). Mode of Trial Decisions and Sentencing Differences between Courts. The Howard Journal of Criminal Justice 33(2), 97-108
Scheb, J. (2002). An Introduction to the American Legal System. Cengage Learning.
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