Blog

 
     

What Is the Difference Between a Misdemeanor and a Felony

By Michael Klazema on 6/25/2019

Whether you are an employer running a background check for a prospective hire or a job seeker wondering how a run-in with the law will impact your hiring chances, you need to know the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony. We review the basic differences between these two criminal offenses and explore what constitutes a simple infraction.

Infractions

Infractions are the least-severe violation of the law. Generally, an offender can resolve an infraction by simply paying a fine. This kind of offense does not show up on your criminal record and rarely necessitates court time, let alone jail time.

Traffic tickets are the most common type of infraction. If you get a ticket for driving 10 miles over the speed limit, you will be punished for breaking the law, but the offense will not contribute to a criminal record. Other examples of infraction crimes are trespassing, littering, and noise violations. These incidents will generally not show up on a background check—unless an employer runs a driving history check—and they do not require you to answer “Yes” if asked whether you have a criminal record.

Misdemeanors

Misdemeanors are more severe than infractions. Unlike a traffic ticket, a misdemeanor is a criminal offense. Misdemeanors fall into various categories depending on severity.

Federal guidelines classify misdemeanors as Class A, Class B, or Class C. Each class has a minimum and maximum jail sentence, though judges can waive jail time as part of a plea bargain. Here are the standard sentences for different classes of misdemeanors.

  • Class A: Up to one year in jail; minimum of six months
  • Class B: Up to six months in jail; minimum of 30 days
  • Class C: Up to 30 days in jail; minimum of five days

Some examples of crimes that are typically considered misdemeanors are petty theft, reckless driving, vandalism, disorderly conduct, public intoxication, and certain assault offenses. Marijuana possession was a misdemeanor in the past, but that classification is changing as more states legalize and decriminalize the drug. First-time possession of other drugs may also be charged as a misdemeanor depending on the jurisdiction and the amount in possession.

Felonies

A felony is the most severe type of criminal charge. Federally, a felony is any crime with a sentence of one year or longer in prison—though some states don’t define “felony” at all. The crimes that fall into this category are often violent in nature or otherwise severely damaging, whether to people, property, or both. Examples of crimes that are typically classified as felonies are murder, rape, aggravated assault, manslaughter, burglary, arson, and animal cruelty.

As with misdemeanors, there are various classes of felony based on the severity of the punishment.

  • Class A: life in prison or the death penalty
  • Class B: 25 years in prison or longer
  • Class C: More than 10 years in prison, but less than 25
  • Class D: More than five years in prison, but less than 10
  • Class E: More than one year in prison, but less than five

At backgroundchecks.com, our criminal background check reports always clearly state whether a criminal conviction was classified as a misdemeanor or felony.

If you have any remaining questions on this topic, feel free to contact us directly.


Tag Cloud
Categories
Recent Posts

Latest News

  • July 16 A New Jersey organization that was administering federal grant-funded programs has agreed to pay a $1.1 million settlement for failing to conduct background checks on 46 volunteers.
  • July 11 Under an innovative program that went into effect July 1, Pennsylvania will automatically seal many old criminal records. 
  • July 09 In October, the Georgia Long-Term Care Background Check Program will officially go into effect. Here’s what employers in the state need to know about the law.
  • July 04 Despite the failure of a full-scale legalization effort, New York state has reduced cannabis-related penalties and introduced automatic expungement.
  • July 03 Preparing for the employment background check process can improve your chances of getting hired. Here’s how to do it.
  • July 02 Charlotte-Mecklenburg School District in North Carolina stopped fingerprinting new hires last July even though board policy requires fingerprinting during pre-hire background checks. The fingerprinting “pause” caused alarm in the Charlotte community.
  • June 27 In 2012, the EEOC published new guidelines instructing employers not to use blanket bans against applicants with criminal records. The state of Texas sued. Today, arguments continue in federal circuit court.
  • June 25 Learn the differences between infractions, misdemeanors, and felonies and what each run-in with the law means for a background check report.
  • June 25 A recent federal court ruling has called into question how employers should observe the FCRA when filling independent contractor positions rather than full- or part-time jobs. Many sections of the FCRA are only relevant if background checks are intended for “employment purposes.”
  • June 20 The ACLU has filed suit against the owner of an apartment complex in Virginia alleging discriminatory practices. The owner contends otherwise.