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What is the difference between a misdemeanor and felony?

When a person commits a crime, the classification of the charge depends on the severity of the crime and the individual's prior run-ins with the law. In general, two categories of charges exist, but within each is a range that helps determine an appropriate sentence.

In Colorado, your arrest may get you a misdemeanor or a felony charge. Knowing the difference between the two and the possible sentences should a judge find you guilty may help set expectations for moving forward through the legal process smoothly.

Misdemeanors

When trying to decide how a court categorizes a crime, you need to look at the maximum possible sentence. Misdemeanors usually carry a lower threshold, and generally most crimes at this level carry a one-year or less sentence. Three classes exist within misdemeanors. These include the following:

  • Class 1: A maximum sentence between six months and one year
  • Class 2: A maximum sentence between 30 days and six months
  • Class 3: A maximum sentence between five days and 30 days

People convicted under a misdemeanor class do not typically go to prison. They usually serve their time in a local jail which offers much more freedom and fewer violent offenders.

Felonies

Sometimes a serious crime necessitates a felony charge. These charges mean a person may spend no less than a year in prison. The harshest sentence a court may impose for felonies in Colorado is the death penalty. Five subclasses within the felony classification include a range of imprisonment sentences:

  • Class 1: Life or the death penalty
  • Class 2: More than 25 years
  • Class 3: Between 10 and 25 years
  • Class 4: Between five and 10 years
  • Class 5: Between one and five years

When faced with a serious charge, you want to give yourself the best possible chance of beating it. Many people choose to consult with an attorney who specializes in criminal law to help them seek a more favorable outcome.

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