If you have been stopped by the police with a few grams of … hmm … “contraband” on you, if you have found yourself on the winning side of a fight, if you have something in your possession (right now) that you didn’t pay for … you may be wondering how steep the fine will be if you are charged with a crime or if you can end up in jail. The answer depends on whether you are charged with a felony or misdemeanor.
If charged with a misdemeanor, you could end up with a year in jail, a heavy fine, and/or the revocation of your driver’s license. Typical misdemeanors are for infractions like a DUI, disorderly conduct, domestic violence, and/or soliciting a prostitute. A district attorney, however, can raise a misdemeanor act to a felony crime if she thinks there’s enough evidence to show that you have severely harmed a person or property. Here’s how this works in real life. Punching somebody in a bar with your bare hands could be a misdemeanor. If you reach into your pocket and whip out some brass knuckles to use on them, however, you may be charged with a felony because the knuckles are a weapon.
Misdemeanors that end up in court are generally for matters like traffic infractions that end in an accident, minor property crimes or violations of county and municipal statues. Although serous, if you are charged with a misdemeanor, you may not have to show up in court. Instead, your lawyer may be able to go on your behalf.
If you are convicted of a felony, you will be lucky if a year of time is all you face. Felonies often carry a term of at least one year in a state or federal penitentiary. You can also lose your right to vote and be slammed with long probation periods. In addition to a difference in penalties, felonies and misdemeanors are not prosecuted in the same manner. Felonies usually come with pre-trial motions and multiple court dates (you won’t be in and out like you could be with a misdemeanor) in addition to separate standards for evidence and different timelines for filing motions.
If you find yourself wondering if your “infraction” will be viewed as a misdemeanor or a felony, stop wondering and get a lawyer. If you are in Washington, DC or Maryland, the Law Office of Michael Bruckheim can help. Call us at (240) 753-8222.