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Understanding the Difference Between A Felony and Misdemeanor Charge

Photo of a handcuffed defendant with Criminal Defense Attorney in a court room

Felonies and Misdemeanors are the two most common classifications of crimes in California. Understanding the differences and the legal process for each can greatly affect your rights and freedom.

In general, a misdemeanor charge stems from what is considered a minor crime while a felony charge relates to more serious or major crimes.

Seeking legal advice from an experienced Criminal Defense Attorney should be your first step to protect yourself when facing felony or misdemeanor charges. If you or a loved one is currently facing a criminal charge, contact the Abrate & Olsen Law Group today for a personal consultation.


“During a difficult time, I was referred to Dan Olsen who was able to provide expertise and experience from other cases to create the best outcome for my situation. I cannot thank him enough for his help.”
~ Stewart H. – Sacramento, CA

What is a Felony?

Felonies include crimes such as burglary, robbery, drug crimes, fraud, attempted murder, arson, homicide, and other various violent or non-violent crimes. When convicted of a felony, the charge will be over one year in prison as well as possible fines.

There are differences between a felony arrest and a felony charge. A felony arrest is based on suspicion of committing a felony, while a felony charge occurs when the prosecution believes they have enough evidence to seek a conviction.

What is a Misdemeanor?

Common misdemeanors are vandalism, prostitution, public intoxication, trespassing, reckless driving, and petty theft. They are more likely to receive fines than jail time. A misdemeanor conviction does not necessarily include incarceration, but if it does, it is usually for less than one year and the sentence is served in jail rather than prison.

Those who are convicted of multiple misdemeanors may serve them consecutively, therefore serving time in a jail for longer than one year.

Being Charged with A Felony Isn’t a Felony Conviction! We Can Help, Contact the Abrate & Olsen Law Group Today!

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Can a Felony Be Reduced to a Misdemeanor?

There are some instances in which a felony can be reduced to a misdemeanor. These “wobblers” are crimes that can either be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony.

Factors that affect whether a felony is reduced to a misdemeanor include:

  • The felony is a crime commonly charged as a misdemeanor
  • The criminal background of the accused
  • The personal background of the accused
  • The felony incarceration or probation charge is less than one year
  • Successful completion of probation

Reducing a felony to a misdemeanor can be beneficial to get a future job, serve on a jury, rent or purchase a place to live, receive certification for a profession, and for many other reasons.

The best way to do this is to hire a qualified professional to help your individual situation. At Abrate & Olsen Law Group, our experienced lawyers have the expertise and experience to fight for your rights.

Abrate & Olsen are experienced in a wide range of Criminal Defense cases and also former Deputy District Attorneys for the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office. This unique knowledge and experience allow them to understand both sides of how a case is tried.

Differences Between Charges and Jail/Prison Time

The difference between time in jail and prison is jails are used for short-term sentences, and facilitated by local law enforcement. Alternatively, prisons are used for long-term inmates and are run by state or federal government.

A crime that is typically charged as a misdemeanor can be charged as a felony depending on the situation and severity of the crime. Serious misdemeanors that can lead to a felony charge include domestic violence, custody interference, embezzlement, and drunk driving/DUI/DWI.

One example is an assault crime that is usually charged as a misdemeanor but can instead be charged as a felony if the crime is committed with a deadly weapon or against a police officer, woman or child.

Experienced Legal Professionals

Don’t leave your future to chance. If you are facing a Misdemeanor or Felony Criminal Charge, call our friendly law office today to schedule a personal consultation with our Award-Winning Criminal Defense Attorneys today!

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