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What Are The Differences Between A Misdemeanor And A Felony?


A misdemeanor is usually punished by no more than 180 days in jail, while a felony is usually punished by no less than a year in jail. With misdemeanors, what’s really at stake is, they want your money and they want you to have a criminal record. New Jersey calls them disorderly person’s and indictable crimes but everywhere else, they’re misdemeanors and felonies. It’s pretty unusual for people to actually go to jail for misdemeanor, except for DWI cases, the people jailed are usually felons who have had a string of chances and just haven’t learned the lesson.  With felonies, it’s a different story; the cases are in degrees – first degree, second degree, third degree and fourth degree, with fourth degree felonies essentially being a misdemeanor with a longer criminal record.

For a first offense, there is what’s called a presumption for non-incarceration, so they start off with a feeling that, even if you did it, you shouldn’t go to jail and they should give you probation instead. Third degree crimes are more serious than fourth degree crimes, obviously, and there still can be a presumption of non-incarceration, but it’s less of a presumption. It’s like playing a game of blackjack if you have a prior; the last one was a fourth degree and now you have a third degree, and maybe that presumption doesn’t play; maybe now it’s time to put you in jail, but for a first offense, you may be able to avoid incarceration.

Fourth degree felonies are punishable by a year to a year and a half in jail, third degree felonies can draw 3-5 years, second degree felonies can lead to 5-10 years and first degree felonies can bring decades in prison. When a decision has been made to charge someone with a first degree felony, the case will draw the most diligent and experienced prosecutors and the most effective investigators, and they will not spare resources, or worry about the time or money spent; this is someone they want off the streets for a long time. Second degree crimes are similar, but the magnitude of a first degree felony makes a second degree felony look like something less, although they’re not much less; half a decade in jail is a long time.

Third degree felonies are those most people are charged and then there are fourth degree felonies, which include a presumption for non-incarceration. In addition to significant jail time for most of these offenses, a fine for first degree felony can be up to $200,000, while a second degree felony can cost up to $150,000 and a third degree felony can cost up to $15,000 and a fourth degree felony can cost $10,000.  As you see, things are magnified by a factor of 10 as you step up to each level, so a defendant facing a second degree felony who can have it reduced to a fourth degree with probation, your attorney has done a great job for you.

Why Should Someone Hire A Private Attorney Instead of Retaining a Public Defender?

We have very strong connections with the prosecutors and the legal staff in all county and municipal courts. They know we have no problem taking cases to trial and that there are cases we will take to trial purely out of principle and they know we have the resources to really cause problems for them at trial. As a result, they will give us the best opportunity to resolve the case, not just for those reasons, but also because most prosecutors respect and like us and that is an important thing.

You can have a disagreement with someone but at the end of the day, if it’s someone you still can go and have a drink with, that’s important too. We’re not the right attorney for everyone; some people need an attorney who can be overbearing and nasty and a know-it-all, and that’s not me. I work hard for my clients, I behave in an ethical manner and all you have to do is to take a look at the reviews on our website; that tells you everything you need to know about how we practice and how our clients feel at the end of the day.

The one difference between us and the public defender’s office is that I believe that what people want most of all when they hire an attorney is someone who will hear their side of the story and advocate that and I just don’t know that the public defenders are capable of doing that because they have so many cases.  Really, that’s all people want; someone to listen.

For more information on Difference between Misdemeanor and Felony, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you’re seeking by calling (908) 210-9755 today.

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