Misdemeanors and felony are common words we hear from the world lawyers and attorneys. However, not all of us are aware of the true meaning behind it.

The United States’ Federal Criminal Code splits into two categories, and this might be confusing to some. Good thing, we are here to shed light on the matter, and we’ll give you guys a quick rundown on what felony and misdemeanor truly mean.

In simpler terms, these two are the main categories of the crimes committed by an individual. By definition, misdemeanors are criminal offenses that are considered less serious set by the standards of the law. However, these offenses are considered above infractions.

On the other side of the coin, we might need to get our hands on a very reliable lawyer if we see ourselves on the receiving end of a felony. It is considered on a larger scale than a misdemeanor, and convicted felons usually find themselves paying a considerable fine and not to mention possible jail time. We have to take note that both charges may lead to us getting behind bars, but felonies may give us more than 12 months of prison time.

Aside from the punishment, prosecutors also set apart misdemeanors and felonies on the severity of the crime. Let’s cite some examples for a better explanation.


In certain states, an assault has different levels of punishment, and the sentence depends on the seriousness of the crime. If someone got severely injured or something was used as a weapon that caused harm to the victim, lawyers and the jury will consider this offense as a felony.

Assault, on the other hand, is considered a misdemeanor if the defendant gave a threat to the victim and never caused any harm.


Another prime example where we can differentiate felony and misdemeanor would be a disturbance of peace. It may come in many forms, such as bullying others, mobilizing public assembly without any proper permission from the authorities. Even fighting in public falls under this category as well.

Many states classified this as a misdemeanor. However, we need to keep in mind that certain states have their own set of rules, and the verdict may be influenced by the degree and severity of the offense.


Dealing with drugs is a serious matter anywhere in the world. Still, just like what the other offenses we discussed along the way, depending on the circumstance, it may be classified as either a felony or a misdemeanor.

Drug cases will easily fall under a misdemeanor class if we are talking about simple and small amounts of possession. However, cases that involve illegal drugs may fall under felony if we are dealing with a specific quantity depending on the definition set by a jurisdiction. Possession of illegal drugs with an intention selling them outright in any way, shape, or form would easily fall under a felony class.

Let’s take a look at the state of California, for example. We’d spend less than twelve months of prison time and a hefty amount of fine from our credit cards if the authorities caught us while we possess illegal drugs. It would be a different kettle of fish if a large amount were caught under our care, and that would spell multiple years of the sentence behind bars.


Theft is another case that we need to take a look at. It is a prevalent crime, and this offense covers many grounds. To battle this, the court of justice placed a border on how they would call a simple theft to be a misdemeanor or a felony.

Just like in the previous examples, the degree and severity of the offense play a significant role in classifying the crime. An absolute threshold is set, and it is usually a distinguishing factor between felony and misdemeanor. What’s the determining factor you ask? That’s easy, and the answer is the cash value of the stolen goods.

The majority of the states set a stolen good with a cash value of $500 or less as a misdemeanor. In some cases, the limit could go as high as $1,000. However, if the defendant exceeded the threshold set by the state law, many lawyers would say that it will fall under a felony class. Cases with more than $1,000 or more of stolen goods involved are often called grand theft.

Now that we cleared a couple of the dust, we have a better understanding of what misdemeanor and felony are.

Based on Materials from Examples