When facing criminal charges, there is a good chance you will be charged with either a felony or a misdemeanor. This is an important distinction because felonies and misdemeanors are treated very differently by the courts. Felonies are typically more serious crimes compared to felonies, and many defendants wonder what makes their offense a felony rather than a misdemeanor.
As previously said, felonies are major crimes, whereas misdemeanors are less serious offenses. This description is somewhat vague and may leave you with even more questions about what makes a crime serious enough to be labeled a felony. Felonies are punished much more harshly than misdemeanors, and the criminal justice process is somewhat different for each crime. Felonies are often handled more carefully and the process may take longer. For misdemeanors, the process may be more streamlined and cases are processed a bit more quickly.
If you are facing criminal charges in Utah, speak with our Utah criminal felony defense attorneys for help. Our team can help you determine if your charges are felonies or misdemeanors and develop an appropriate defense strategy. Contact Overson Law, PLLC for a free and confidential consultation on your case. To schedule a meeting with our staff, call (801) 758-2287.
Sentencing for Felonies and Misdemeanors in Utah
The most common way felonies are distinguished from misdemeanors is how they are sentenced. Felonies, being more severe crimes, are often punished by lengthy incarceration terms in state prison. On the other hand, misdemeanors are less serious and are usually punished by terms in county jail for less than one year. When a crime is punishable by more than one year of incarceration, it will typically be considered a felony. However, it would be best if you spoke with an attorney about your charges to be sure about your potential penalties.
Felonies and misdemeanors are also broken down into separate subcategories. Felonies are categorized as being in the first-, second-, or third-degree. First-degree felonies are the most serious, while third-degree is the least. There are also capital felonies which are treated separately and punishable by death.
First-degree felonies are punishable by at least 5 years in state prison, but that term can be for as long as life in prison. A second-degree felony may be punished with a state prison term of no less than 1 year, but no more than 15 years. Third-degree felonies can be punished by no more than 5 years in state prison. These sentencing ranges can be very wide, and judges will consider any number of mitigating or aggravating factors when imposing a sentence.
Misdemeanors, on the other hand, are broke down into different classes. You may be charged with a class A, B, or C misdemeanor. Even class A misdemeanors, the most serious, are still punished by less than one year in jail.
The difference in punishments for felonies and misdemeanors is incredible. A serious misdemeanor will be punished by less than a year in county jail. A serious felony, however, may be punished by decades in state prison. Additionally, felony sentencing will take things like the possibility of parole into consideration. If you are facing felony charges, call our Utah criminal defense lawyers for help.
What Types of Crimes are Felonies but Not Misdemeanors in Utah?
Ordinarily, felonies are considered major crimes. Misdemeanors are less serious and typically involve less harm to the victim. This begs the question, what makes a crime serious enough to be considered a felony? Unfortunately, this is a tough question to answer as there are no real rules about how to label crimes and offenses.
Crimes are designated as a felony or a misdemeanor in their statutes. The statutes explaining the crime of assault will designate the offense as a felony or misdemeanor. However, there is not usually an explanation as to why. When designating an offense as a felony or misdemeanor, factors like the nature of the offense and the harm to the victim will be considered, along with many other factors. A violent crime is more likely to be labeled as a felony than a non-violent one.
You may be charged with a felony in some cases, but your attorney can help you negotiate with prosecutors and get your charges reduced to a misdemeanor offense. The designation of a crime as a felony may be determined by statute, but prosecutors have broad discretion when deciding to charge you. Call our Murray criminal defense lawyers for help with your case.
The Legal Process for Felonies and Misdemeanors in Utah
The legal process for felonies is more drawn out than it is for misdemeanors. Since felonies are more serious, and the victims of felonies tend to be more harmed, courts are under pressure to handle felonies very delicately to make sure the outcome is correct and appropriate. This may involve extra considerations at sentencing or additional hearings and proceedings.
One example of an additional hearing for felonies is the preliminary hearing. This hearing occurs after your arraignment and is a precautionary step used to determine if there is enough evidence to warrant a trial. The prosecutor must show the court that enough evidence exists to justify taking the defendant through a trial. If the prosecutor fails to meet this burden, the defendant’s charges may be dropped.
Preliminary hearings do not exist for misdemeanor offenses because they are often minor crimes. As such, the process for adjudicating misdemeanors is usually quicker than felonies. If you are facing felony charges, call our Orem criminal defense attorneys as soon as possible.
Contact Our Utah Criminal Felony Defense Attorneys for a Consultation Today
If you or a loved one has been charged with any crime, felony or misdemeanor, you should speak to an attorney about your case immediately. Our Park City criminal defense attorneys are available to schedule a free consultation. Call Overson Law, PLLC at (801) 758-2287.