Words commonly used in the criminal justice system tend to get confused from time to time. When people are found guilty, we often refer to them as “criminals.” However, there is a big difference between crimes classified as felonies and crimes classified as misdemeanors.
Many people also tend to use the words “prison” and “prison” to mean the same thing. However, I can tell you from experience that they are two very different animals. So, we’re going to dig deeper today: Can you go to jail for a misdemeanor?
In today’s blog post, I’ll cover the following topics:
- Difference Between Felony and Misdemeanor
- Difference Between Prison and Jail
- There are different categories of misdemeanors and felonies
Difference Between Felony and Misdemeanor
In the U.S. criminal justice system, a felony is the most serious crime you can commit. They face long prison terms or prison terms and fines. Sometimes felons are stripped of their liberty permanently.
Misdemeanors, on the other hand, are much less serious. If convicted, you will see less jail time, smaller fines and interim penalties. To give you an idea of the difference between the two, let’s look at an example.
Imagine you get pulled over for DUI and your blood alcohol test shows you are slightly over the legal limit. In most states, you will be arrested and charged with a misdemeanor.
However, if you test way over the limit — or, if you have children in the car when you test slightly over the legal limit — you’ll likely be arrested and charged with a felony.
It all depends on the seriousness of the crime. When you are convicted of a felony and sentenced to prison, you will most likely serve time in prison. Misdemeanors are defined as offenses punishable by up to one year in prison.
Difference Between Prison and Jail
Prison and jail are not the same thing. Jails are usually city or county-run facilities that house people who have been arrested and are in police custody but have not yet been convicted of a crime.
Prisons also house people convicted of misdemeanor crimes. And those convicted of felonies who are awaiting transfer to prison. Prisons are usually large pods with cells where prisoners are held for up to 24 hours a day.
Prisons are facilities operated by state departments of corrections or the federal Bureau of Prisons. There are also private prisons that have management contracts with federal and state governments.
Prisons often have a campus-like environment, including housing units, dining halls, medical clinics, recreational areas, and administrative buildings. Inmates in prisons often have access to educational programs, self-improvement classes, and facility work.
There are different categories of misdemeanors and felonies
Most states divide crimes into felonies and misdemeanors. There are also states that classify a “violation” as a “violation,” which is less severe than a misdemeanor. Within these categories, there are different levels or categories.
These categories are determined by the maximum possible prison time. Your best bet when trying to spot the difference is to look at potential jail time. For violations such as traffic violations, there is no jail time, nor does it appear on a criminal record. Often, the only penalty for a violation is a ticket. You could go to jail for up to five days for a violation. However, that is extremely rare. If you ignore the situation and don’t pay your bills, the violation could become more serious.
A misdemeanor is more serious than a violation, but not as serious as a felony. As I said before, most states consider misdemeanors a crime punishable by up to a year in prison. Different categories of misdemeanors have different maximum sentences.
- Class A Misdemeanor – One year or less, but more than six months;
- Class B misdemeanor – six months or less, but more than thirty days; or
- Class C Misdemeanor – Thirty days or less, but more than five days.
Often, the jail time is spent in the local county jail, not in a high-security prison.
A felony is the most serious type of crime you can commit and usually carries a sentence of more than a year in prison. Most states define felonies in terms of possible sentences or places of incarceration. Sometimes, it’s a little bit of both.
For example, Idaho defines a felony as a crime punishable by death or incarceration in a state prison. Georgia defines a felony as “an offense punishable by death, life imprisonment, or imprisonment for more than 12 months.”
Typically, though, serving more than a year in state or federal prison would be considered a felony. The general definitions are as follows (each state has its own definition):
- Class A felony – life imprisonment or death;
- Class B Felony – Twenty-five years or more;
- Class C felony – less than 25 years, more than 10 years;
- Class D felony – less than ten years, more than five years; or
- Class E Felony – Less than five years, but more than one year
The simple answer to today’s blog post question is “no.” You can’t go to jail for a misdemeanor. However, if convicted, you could end up in jail for up to a year.
Do you know the difference between prison and jail? Let us know in the comments below.
Sources: Can you go to jail for a misdemeanor? What's the Difference Between a Misdemeanor vs. Felony? Misdemeanor v. Felony What are the differences between felonies and misdemeanors?