What is the Difference Between a Misdemeanor and Felony Charge in California?

California laws separate criminal offenses into three categories, based on the severity of the alleged crime and applicable punishments.

  • Infractions result in fines.
  • Misdemeanors are punishable by fines, less than one year in county jail, or both.
  • Felonies carry a penalty of state or federal prison, with lower-level felony sentences being carried out in a county facility.

Additionally, the post-conviction ramifications for misdemeanor and felony charges differ greatly, with felonies resulting in the loss of professional licenses, trouble gaining employment, housing, or loans that require background checks, and the inability to carry a firearm or serve on a jury. Misdemeanor convictions will not face such serious consequences after the fact and may be eligible for expungement.

At the Kosnett Law Firm, our Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys focus on pursuing the best outcome available for each of our clients by getting their charges reduced when a dismissal is not possible, so they can face their futures with confidence.

How Are Misdemeanors Classified in California?

Misdemeanors are classified in two different categories in California.

They include:

  • Standard Misdemeanors: Punishable by up to six months in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000.

Common standard misdemeanors may include:

  1. Drug possession
  2. Indecent exposure
  3. Petty theft
  4. Prostitution
  5. Public intoxication
  6. Shoplifting
  7. Trespassing
  • Aggravated or Gross Misdemeanors

Punishable by up to 364 days in jail and/or a fine of $1,000 or more.

Common gross misdemeanors may include:

  1. Domestic battery
  2. Driving on a suspended license
  3. DUI
  4. Restraining order violations

Misdemeanors are also classified in three different classes, based on the severity of the crime.

They include:

  • Class A Misdemeanors

The penalties for Class A Misdemeanors are six months to one year of incarceration.

  • Class B Misdemeanors

The penalties for Class B Misdemeanors are thirty days to six months of incarceration.

  • Class C Misdemeanors

The penalties for Class C Misdemeanors are between five and thirty days of incarceration.

How Are Felonies Classified in California?

Felonies are the most serious types of crimes that can be committed in California and are punishable by substantial fines and prison sentences.

Felonies are classified in different classes based on the severity of the crime.

They include:

  • Class A Felony

The penalty for Class A Felonies is life imprisonment.

  • Class B Felony

The penalty for Class B Felonies is imprisonment of 25 years or more.

  • Class C Felony

The penalty for Class C Felonies is imprisonment of ten to 25 years.

  • Class D Felony

The penalty for Class D Felony is imprisonment of five to ten years.

  • Class E Felony

The penalty for Class E Felony is imprisonment of one to five years.

Felonies include severe crimes that can include, but are not limited to:

  1. Burglary
  2. Kidnapping
  3. Murder
  4. Rape

Each criminal case is as unique as the individual who has been charged, as their criminal history will dictate how the prosecutors pursue the punishable offenses.

If you have been charged with a misdemeanor or felony lawyer in Los Angeles County, contact our experienced criminal defense attorneys at the Kosnett Law Firm today by calling (310) 445-5900 or by contacting us online to learn more about how we will pursue the best outcome available for your unique circumstances.

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