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What is the Difference Between a Misdemeanor and a Felony? - Tabibnia Law

What is the Difference Between a Misdemeanor and a Felony?

In California, criminal charges are divided into three broad categories: infractions, misdemeanors and felonies. While the type of charge is a factor in determining what penalty you might face if convicted, it is by no means indicative of whether or not you should seek legal counsel.

For example, Anyone who has received a traffic ticket might want to consult with a Santa Clarita traffic attorney, in cases where: they feel that the infraction was unwarranted; their license could be suspended if they receive another citation; or, it would cause them to lose their jobs or make insurance more expensive.

In California, anyone charged with a misdemeanor or felony should consult an attorney as soon as possible. Because we believe everyone should have access to quality legal advice, the Law Offices of Tabibnia Law Firm offers a free initial consultation to anyone facing an infraction, felony or misdemeanor charge in the Los Angeles area.

Types or Categories of Crimes

The criminal justice systems of most U.S. states divide their crimes into different categories based on the severity of each offense.
The major legal categories are infractions, misdemeanors and felonies. However there may be different levels within the category of each crime (such as first-degree murder). The major categories are usually defined by the amount of jail time that is possible for a given offense. It is important to understand how the court system treats a particular case in order to know what differences exist.
Generally speaking, when trying to figure out the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony, you can look at the maximum potential jail time for each.


There is usually no jail time associated with an infraction, which means it will not appear on your criminal record.
If convicted, the defendant will likely face only a fine as punishment. However, federal law classifies an infraction as a crime punishable not more than five days in jail.
In addition to traffic tickets, other offenses may also be considered infractions.

For example: trespassing, littering and disturbing the peace are all petty offenses. When a police officer sees someone breaking the law, he or she can issue a ticket. The person will be required to pay a fine, but the amount of time that he or she spends in jail is usually minimal.

However, if an infraction goes unaddressed or unpaid, it can turn into a more serious crime.
It is not uncommon for a traffic violation to have different classes (moving violations, non-moving violations and other petty offenses). There are typically stricter penalties for more serious offenses than for lesser ones within a given category.

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In the state of California, any crime that can be punished by imprisonment for more than one year is considered a felony. This fact is what distinguishes a misdemeanor from a felony offense.
Many people who are arrested for a felony have no prior experience with the criminal justice system. They do not understand how the case process works in California and often make mistakes that can harm their defense. In California, felonies and misdemeanors are the two main classifications of crimes.
A felony conviction—in addition to any state prison sentence, large fines and other penalties that may be imposed by the court — can disqualify you from many jobs; prevent you from living in certain neighborhoods or gaining access to professional licenses.

For example, if someone has been convicted of a number of felonies in California, he or she may be subject to additional sentencing under the state’s three strikes law.

A felony conviction can make it difficult to obtain certain types of employment or professional licensing. In addition, convicted felons are prohibited by law from owning or possessing firearms. A felony conviction can also lead to the loss of civil rights, such as voting and holding public office. In order to avoid a felony conviction, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney. You will need an experienced criminal defense lawyer who have the skills to negotiate with prosecutors for reduced charges or dismissal of cases. Certain crimes, known as straight felonies, can only be charged and sentenced as felony offenses and cannot be reduced to misdemeanor charges.
These crimes are the most serious, and will count as a “strike” on your record if you commit one that is serious enough. Some felonies that are commonly prosecuted in California include murder under Penal Code section 187, rape under Penal Code section 261, and first-degree burglary (also known as home invasion) under Penal Code section 459. People convicted of these serious felony crimes are often sentenced to state prison in California. Our California criminal defense attorneys have compiled this overview of felony crimes to provide readers with more useful information.



People who are charged with felony crimes will go through a preliminary hearing, during which the prosecutor has to demonstrate that there is probable cause for the charges against them. At this stage of the case, witnesses and evidence can be challenged by both sides. Common felony charges include:

  • Penal Code 211 – Robbery
  • Penal Code 187 – Murder
  • Penal Code 664/187 – Attempted Murder
  • Penal Code 207 – Kidnapping
  • Penal Code 261 – Rape
  • Penal Code 647.6 – Child Molestation
  • Penal Code 311.1 – Child Pornography
  • Penal Code 288 – Lewd Acts with a Minor
  • Penal Code 487 – Grand Theft
  • Penal Code 215 – Carjacking
  • Penal Code 192(c) – Gross Vehicular Manslaughter
  • Penal Code 245(a)(2) – Assault with a Firearm
  • Homicide
  • Manslaughter
  • Penal Code 245(a)(1)) – Assault with a deadly weapon
  • Penal Code 192(a) – Voluntary Manslaughter
  • Penal Code 192(b) – Involuntary Manslaughter
  • Penal Code 243(d) – Aggravated Battery
  • Penal Code 191.5(a) – Gross Manslaughter while Intoxicated
  • Penal Code 191.5(b) – Negligent Manslaughter while Intoxicated
  • Penal Code 243.4 – Sexual battery
  • Penal Code 236 False Imprisonment
  • Hate Crimes
  • Penal Code 206 Torture
  • Penal Code 203 Mayhem
  • Penal Code 205 Aggravated Mayhem
  • Fraud
  • Internet Crimes
  • Drug Possession
  • Drug Distribution
  • Three strikes cases
  • Gang Cases
  • Penal Code 459 Burglary
  • Auto Theft
  • Domestic violence
  • DUI
  • Obstructing justice
  • Penal Code 118 Perjury
  • Penal Code 422 Criminal Threats


Many people charged with misdemeanors make the mistake of not seeking legal advice from experienced criminal defense attorneys.
People who face misdemeanor charges often have little experience with the legal system, never having been in trouble before. They may not realize that defense lawyers are necessary even for lesser offenses like misdemeanors.
However, the penalties for a California misdemeanor conviction can be very serious—up to one year in jail, fines and other costs. In addition, you may have to serve time on probation or face additional criminal charges due to your prior record.
Tabibnia Law Firm offers a free consultation to anyone facing misdemeanor charges. We understand that a criminal charge can be embarrassing and devastating. A criminal conviction can have a major impact on your life and future, preventing you from getting a job or even renting an apartment.

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  • DWI/DUI (VC 23152(a) 23152(b))
  • Domestic Violence/Domestic Battery (PC 243(e)(1))
  • Petty Theft (PC 484 & 488)
  • Shoplifting
  • Public Intoxication
  • Receiving Stolen Property (PC 496)
  • Disorderly Conduct
  • Probation Violations
  • Solicitation of Prostitution (PC 647(b))
  • Prostitution (PC 647(b)
  • Reckless Driving
  • Assault and Battery (PC 240 & 242)
  • Trespassing (PC 602)
  • Drug Possession
  • Indecent Exposure
  • Violation of a Protection Order
  • Disturbing the Peace
  • Drunk in Public (PC 647(f)

If you are facing a criminal charge, contact Criminal Defense Attorney at Tabibnia Law Firm for a free consultation to discuss your rights.

Cyrus Tabibnia

Cyrus Tabibnia

Tabibnia Law Firm retains years of experience successfully representing individuals charged with misdemeanor and felony crimes,Theft Crimes, Crime Against Children, Driving Crimes, Rape Crimes, driving under the influence (DUIs), domestic violence cases, drug possession cases, state and federal crimes, white color crimes, driving on a suspended license offenses, violent crimes, sex crimes, Forgery and all other criminal defense cases throughout Los Angeles, Sherman Oaks, Orange County, San Fernando Valley, Ventura County, Riverside County, Van Nuys, Santa Monica, Beverly Hills. An expungement attorney in Los Angeles who can assist you in clearing your criminal record in the state of California. Call for a consultation today: 866-713-2159

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