Difference Between Misdemeanors and Felonies


In most states, crimes are classified into one of two categories: felonies and misdemeanors. At surface level, it’s common knowledge that being charged with a felony is the most severe and punishable offense, while misdemeanors are less serious. Understanding the difference between the two can be crucial in terms of plea agreements and possible punishments. In this blog, our Denver criminal defense attorney highlights the key differences between misdemeanors and felonies.


The common examples of misdemeanor offenses include minor theft crimes, driving with a suspended license, and minor drug offenses. Punishments for misdemeanors usually include fines and sometimes jail time – if you’re charged for multiple misdemeanors, however, the punishments can run consecutively so that once one penalty is served, the next begins right after. Unlike felony penalties, any jail time will typically be served in local or county jail and not in a federal correctional facility.

Depending on the class of misdemeanor, penalties can include the following:

  • Class 1 Misdemeanor: Up to $5,000 in fines and 18 months in jail
  • Class 2 Misdemeanor: Up to $1,000 in fines and 1 year in jail
  • Class 3 Misdemeanor: $50 in fines and up to 6 months in jail


If charged with a felony offense, you can expect a much heavier hand in justice than one would expect with a misdemeanor. Felonies, the most serious type of crime, are classified by degrees – first degree felony is the most severe. Individuals who are charged with committing a felony are entitled to a fair trial by jury, and the court must appoint an attorney to the defendant if he or she cannot afford one.

Depending on the severity of the offense, punishment for felonies can include:

  • Class 1 Felony: Up to $1 million in penalties and possible life sentence
  • Class 2 Felony: Up to $1 million in penalties and 24 years in prison
  • Class 3 Felony: Up to $750,000 in penalties and 12 years in prison

Facing criminal charges? Call our Denver criminal defense attorney at (720) 809-8262
to schedule your free consultation.