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What’s the Difference Between a Felony and a Misdemeanor?

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In New York, It Mostly Comes Down to Prison Time

Felonies and misdemeanors are both criminal offenses, but in New York, a felony carries a prison sentence of more than 1 year and a misdemeanor carries a prison sentence of more than 15 days without exceeding 1 year.

There are other differences, as well, which we’ll break down below:


Felonies are the most serious type of crime you can be charged with. In New York, they are divided into five classes – A, B, C, D, and E – with class A felonies being the most serious.

To be charged with a felony, you must first be indicted by a grand jury. Fortunately, New York does not have any viable death penalty laws. On the other hand, however, you could be facing substantial fines, prison time, and even the permanent loss of certain privileges. Those accused of felonies are entitled to a trial by jury. For serious crimes, you will have a traditional, 12-person jury trial.

Depending on the needs of the criminal justice system, you may be placed in a prison far from home or transferred between several different prisons throughout your sentence.

When you get out, you could lose your right to purchase and bear firearms, be listed on a permanent registry, and/or lose access to other privileges, depending on your crime.

Nevertheless, with the right criminal defense attorney, you could avoid a conviction altogether.


Unlike felonies, misdemeanors tend to be for less serious crimes. Similarly, they are separated into categories – A, B, and unclassified. (Unclassified misdemeanors are usually reserved for traffic crimes). Because the maximum sentence for a Class A misdemeanor is 1 year in jail and the maximum sentence for a Class B misdemeanor is 90 days in jail, you will not need to be indicted in order to be charged. Additionally, every aspect of prosecution, including sentencing, happens in the local criminal court system, so if convicted, you will likely serve your term in a municipal or county jail.

You are still entitled to a trial by jury for misdemeanor crimes, but the legal proceedings may be expedited, and you may have a smaller jury. This is because misdemeanors involve less jail time, smaller fines, and more temporary punishments.

In both felonies and misdemeanors, you have the right to be represented by an attorney. If you cannot afford a lawyer, the court will appoint you one.

At Foley Griffin, our experienced lawyers can help you through criminal courts and pursue the most favorable result on your behalf. In some cases, this means avoiding a conviction and/or jail time entirely.

Get Help Today

Don’t trust your defense to just anyone. Instead, put over 75 years of combined experience on your side and call our attorneys at Foley Griffin. Whether you have been charged with a felony or a misdemeanor, we can help.

Call us at (888) 966-8480 or contact us online for a free consultation.