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What is the Difference Between a Felony and a Misdemeanor?

Nov 6, 2020Blog, Legal Tips

If you have committed a crime, you will be charged with either a felony or a misdemeanor. For people who have not dealt with the law before, the differences can be confusing, as can the line between the two (which varies from state to state).

What is a Misdemeanor?

misdemeanor is a criminal offense that generally carries a maximum sentence of no more than a year (note that offenses that don’t involve jail time are infractions). In some states, including Nevada, the maximum sentence for a misdemeanor is 364 days. This is because when jail time hits one year, the crime carries with it the risk of deportation.

Nevada also splits misdemeanors further. In Nevada, a misdemeanor carries a sentence of no more than 6 months or a fine of no more than $1,000, or both. Crimes that carry a sentence of between 6 months and 364 days are called “gross misdemeanors,” and may also attract a fine of no more than $2,000.

Misdemeanors may also carry other punishments including probation, community service, and restitution. You are entitled to trial by jury. Examples of misdemeanors include trespassing, simple battery, shoplifting, and indecent exposure. A misdemeanor conviction will go on your criminal record, and may affect your ability to get a job or keep a professional license.

What is a Felony?

A felony is a much more serious matter. Felonies generally involve physical harm or threat of harm, but can also include large thefts, white collar crimes, and fraud. Additionally, if you are convicted of a misdemeanor, then a second offense of the same kind can be elevated to a felony.

Felonies generally carry prison time that can range from one year to life without parole. (Nevada technically has the death penalty on the books, but has not carried it out since 2006). In addition, felony offenses can impact your right to vote in many states. Fortunately, Nevada changed the law in July, 2019, to restore voting rights to felons immediately on release from prison.

A felony can, however, have a significant impact on your ability to get another job, will almost certainly cost you professional licensure, and can affect your personal relations including custody of children. There are countrywide initiatives to help felons return to normal life and get gainful employment.

How Does This Affect Bail?

Bail bonds for felonies are generally higher, often much higher. Judges usually start with a bail schedule, and amounts for nonviolent misdemeanors can be very low. Bail schedules are set at the county level. For example, in Clark County, the current bail schedule sets bail for most misdemeanors at $1,000, and for gross misdemeanors at $2,000, with higher amounts for a few circumstances, including battery domestic violence.

For felonies, bail is going to be much higher (typically five to ten times) and may be denied altogether unless you can demonstrate that you are not a flight risk. To give an example, the same Clark County schedule sets bail according to the maximum term of imprisonment for felonies, with standard amounts of $5,000 for maximum terms of less than ten years, $10,000 for ten years and $20,000 for greater than ten years. To make things worse, it’s not uncommon for people to be charged with a felony that is then dropped to a misdemeanor later, but only after bail is set and paid (or denied). Some offenses can be prosecuted as both a misdemeanor or a felony, which are called “wobblers.” Typically this happens when the judge passes sentence, however, and bail will be set as for a felony.

8 Ball Bail Bonds can help you get bail together for yourself or a loved one. Contact us for a free consultation to find out how we can help you get bail money together and avoid having to wait in jail until your court date.