The Difference Between Misdemeanors and Felonies:
The consequences for misdemeanors and felony convictions are entirely different. The defendant must understand which crime he or she has been charged with in order to understand what will happen if convicted.
Generally, a misdemeanor crime is punishable by up to one year in county jail. Misdemeanor trails are held in the state’s lower court, sometimes referred to as Municipal Court. Examples of misdemeanor crimes include drunken driving, disorderly conduct, and shoplifting.
A felony crime is punishable by one year or more in a state prison or a penitentiary. Felonies begin in the state’s lower court system but may move up to the state Superior Court, or higher court. Examples of felony crimes include murder, rape, and armed robbery.
The misdemeanor and felony arraignment processes are virtually identical to one another with one exception. In the misdemeanor arraignment process, a pre-trial in Municipal Court is the next step following arraignment. In the felony arraignment process, the next step is a pre-preliminary hearing or a preliminary hearing.
It is recommended that the defendant receive legal representation prior to arraignment. A public defender may have little time to review the case before arraignment or may not even be assigned the case until arraignment. Preparation is key to a successful defense. A private attorney can meet with the defendant prior to arraignment, review the case, and provide the defendant with step-by-step options prior to the arraignment process.