Monday, December 17, 2012

The Difference Between a Misdemeanor & Felony (Explained)

As an affordable Minnesota Criminal Defense Attorney I get lots of questions --- here is one of the most common: 

What is the Difference Between a Misdemeanor and a Felony?

In the State of Minnesota you can be charged with a petty misdemeanor, misdemeanor, gross misdemeanor, or felony. With the exception of felony charges, the other criminal charge classifications dictate the maximum punishment a Minnesota court is allowed to impose upon a conviction. 

By contrast, felony charges, the most serious of criminal charges in Minnesota, are characterized as having a risk of imprisonment of at least one year and one day. Petty misdemeanors are the least serious of offenses charged in Minnesota, with no risk of jail.

Petty Misdemeanors are not a crime as the maximum punishment allowable by law is a $300 fine. Regardless of the nature of the petty misdemeanor, by definition, there is never any risk you will be subject to any jail sentence stemming from a conviction. Unlike more serious charges, there is no right to have a public defender appointed to represent you. Additionally, because a jail sentence is not allowable under the law, the verdict at a petty misdemeanor trial is decided by a judge, not a jury. Although petty misdemeanors are the least serious offense in Minnesota, a conviction is of public record, and accessible by employers, landlords, etc.

A Misdemeanor conviction in Minnesota carries a maximum punishment of 90 days of jail, or $1,000 fine, or both. Because there exists a risk of jail if convicted, you have a right to an attorney and to have your case decided by a jury of six of your peers if you are charged with a misdemeanor. Like all other convictions, you may be subject to collateral consequences above and beyond jail and/or fines as the conviction record is public.

Gross Misdemeanor convictions carry a maximum punishment of one year in jail, or a fine $3,000, or both

A Felony conviction carries at least one year and one day in prison, plus any associated fines. In addition to the prison sentence and fines resulting from a felony conviction, you will likely be subject to numerous other collateral consequences. For example, you may lose many important constitutional rights such as your 2nd Amendment firearms rights or your right to vote. Other consequences of a felony conviction include difficulty securing employment and housing. Although felonies are characterized by a sentence to prison of at least a year and a day, depending on your criminal history, the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines oftentimes dictate that a prison sentence be stayed, conditioned on a successful probationary period and local confinement in a county jail or workhouse.

Bear in mind that, with exception of felonies, the punishments outlined above provide the maximum allowable jail and fines. However, even if you are convicted of a misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor, having an experienced criminal defense lawyer like J. Rolloff to advocate on for you typically results in a sentence substantially less than the maximum allowable sentences or no jail at all. Contact the Rolloff Law Office ---  24 hours a day, 7 days a week. For flexible and affordable payment options, confidential and personal service, aggressive representation and a free initial consultation, Call today: (612) 234-1165.


  1. So I've been thinking I should probably be finding a good criminal defense lawyer in Chicago to help solve our case. Do you know what the best way to find one is? I'd love some help.

  2. I read your site fairly often and I enjoy your posts.
    I shared this on twitter and my followers enjoyed it too.
    Keep up the good work!