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What is the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony?

Most Maryland residents know that violent crimes such as assault and robbery are serious criminal charges that can result in a long prison term. They also know that crimes such as drug possession and shoplifting are not in the same category. Maryland, like other states in the nation, separates criminal charges into two basic categories, namely misdemeanors and felonies. But, what is the main distinction between these two types of crime?

A misdemeanor is generally considered a less serious type of crime. While a misdemeanor is more serious than jaywalking or a parking ticket, it is not as serious as a felony. The punishment for most kinds of misdemeanors is usually no more than one year in jail and a substantial fine. Misdemeanors fall into many types of categories and include crimes such as driving under the influence, trespassing and shoplifting. It can also include certain drug possession charges.

A felony is the most serious type of criminal charge. Punishment for any type of felony usually involves a potential jail sentence of more than one year as well as a large fine. Typical felony charges include manufacturing and distributing illegal drugs, robbery, murder, attempted murder and rape.

It's important to remember that getting a ticket for a traffic violation or jaywalking is not considered a misdemeanor. But, if the fine is not paid for these infractions, then the charges could escalate into the misdemeanor category. However, any Maryland resident who has been charged with either a misdemeanor or a felony may want to speak with a criminal defense attorney in order to find out what potential punishment they may be facing.

Source:, "What happens to a case in Prince George's County Criminal Court?," Accessed Jan. 31, 2016

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