What’s the Difference Between a Misdemeanor and a Felony?

Pennsylvania law classifies crimes differently, depending on their seriousness. A misdemeanor offense is considered to be a crime that is less serious than a felony offense. Felonies are considered to be the most serious types of crimes that can be committed and may carry long sentences to prison, large fines, or the permanent loss of your freedom. Misdemeanor convictions might result in jail sentences, smaller fines, and temporary punishments. Both misdemeanors and felonies are classified by degrees from the third degree to the first degree. For both misdemeanors and felonies, first-degree offenses are the most serious types. If you have been charged with a misdemeanor or a felony crime in Pennsylvania, our team at DiCindio Law can help you to understand what you are facing.

Categories of crimes

In Pennsylvania, crimes are divided into three main categories, including summary offenses, misdemeanor crimes, and felony offenses. Misdemeanors and felonies are further divided into different degrees, as previously described. The mandatory minimum and maximum sentences for a crime will depend on its classification and degree.

Summary offenses

Summary offenses are considered to be the least serious types of crimes. If convicted of a summary offense, your maximum penalty would be 90 days in jail and a fine of up to $300. In most cases, being convicted of a summary offense will not result in jail time and will result in a fine-only sentence. While summary offenses may not result in jail, they still can result in a criminal record that you might have to disclose if asked if you have any convictions. Some common types of summary offenses include:

Misdemeanor offenses

Misdemeanors are less serious than felonies but are more serious than summary offenses. If convicted of a misdemeanor, you might face a mandatory minimum sentence of incarceration and a fine (DUI). Misdemeanors are classified by degrees with first-degree offenses being the most serious. Ungraded misdemeanors are typically treated the same as third-degree misdemeanors.

First-degree misdemeanors are the most serious of the misdemeanor offenses in Pennsylvania. If convicted of committing a first-degree misdemeanor, you will up to five years in prison and a fine up to $10,000. Some of the first-degree misdemeanor offenses in Pennsylvania include:

Second-degree misdemeanor convictions can result in a sentence of one to two years in prison and a fine up to $5,000. Some examples of second-degree misdemeanors include the following:

  • Impersonation of a police officer
  • Theft of property from $50 up to less than $200
  • Simple assault

Third-degree misdemeanor convictions can result in a prison sentence of up to one year and a $2,500 fine. Some examples of third-degree misdemeanor offenses include:

Felony offenses

Felony offenses are considered to be the most serious type of criminal offenses. In Pennsylvania, felonies include murder offenses, first degree-felonies, second-degree felonies, and third-degree felonies. The penalties for a felony conviction will depend on the degree and type of offense.

Murder offenses

There are several murder offenses in Pennsylvania, including first, second, and third-degree murder. First-degree murder is a capital offense that carries a potential sentence of death or life in prison. Second-degree murder carries a potential sentence of life in prison. Third-degree murder carries up to 40 years in prison. Conspiracy to commit murder, solicitation, and attempted murder all carry a potential sentence of up to 40 years. In an attempted murder case, the maximum sentence is 20 years if the attempt did not cause serious bodily injury. First or second-degree murder of an unborn child carries a sentence of life imprisonment.

Other felony offenses

A first-degree non-murder felony is very serious. If convicted of a first-degree felony, you may face up to 20 years in prison and up to $25,000 in fines. Second-degree felony offenses carry penalties ranging from up to 10 years in prison and fines up to $25,000. Third-degree felonies carry penalties ranging up to seven years and fines of up to $15,000.

Collateral consequences of felony convictions

If convicted of a felony offense, you will face repercussions that will continue beyond your sentence. You will have a felony conviction on your criminal record and may face the following types of restrictions:

  • Running for a public office
  • Serving on a jury
  • Obtaining financial aid for college
  • Receiving government benefits
  • Owning or possessing firearms if you were convicted of a violent crime

You may also face problems finding a job or a place to live. You may be unable to join the military or to enter certain types of professions.

Get help from an experienced criminal defense attorney at DiCindio Law

If you are facing criminal charges, you should retain an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. A lawyer at DiCindio Law may be able to build a strong defense case to protect your rights. Contact us today by filling out our contact form or by calling 610.430.3535.