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Understanding misdemeanor vs. felony charges in New York

On Behalf of | Feb 29, 2024 | Criminal Defense |

States typically categorize criminal offenses as either misdemeanors or felonies. These distinctions carry significant legal implications.

Understanding the differences between misdemeanor and felony charges in New York informs your next steps if you face prosecution.

Defining misdemeanor charges

Misdemeanor charges carry legal consequences, but they are less severe than felonies. These offenses typically involve lower-level criminal conduct.

New York imposes misdemeanor charges for:

  • Petty theft, or stealing relatively low-value items
  • Simple assault, a physical altercation without the use of weapons
  • Criminal trespass on someone else’s property
  • Disorderly conduct like disturbing the peace or public intoxication

Individuals convicted of misdemeanors often serve less than a year in jail. They may have other penalties such as fines as well.

Reviewing felony charges

Felonies involve more serious offenses and carry more severe penalties. You could receive a felony charge in New York for:

  • Burglary, which is illegal entry to commit a crime such as theft
  • Aggravated assault involving the use of a weapon or resulting in serious injuries
  • Drug trafficking, including possession of a large quantity of a controlled substance
  • Grand larceny, or theft of high-value items

Penalties for a felony conviction often include prison for at least a year along with significant fines. The most serious felonies, Class A, can result in a life sentence, while the minimum sentence for the lowest level (Class E) is four years.

If you or a loved one faces criminal charges, knowing how misdemeanor and felony offenses differ can help you navigate the legal system and inform your strategy in court.