A Former Prosecutor And Criminal Law Expert

Felonies and Misdemeanors: Key Differences

Whether you have ever been charged with a crime before or not, there is certainly much to be said in favor of procuring the services of an experienced criminal attorney. Navigating the judicial landscape on your own can be overwhelming and, more importantly, it can have serious consequences on your future.

Being charged with any crime, particularly for the first time, can also be an extremely frightening and confusing experience. You may not fully understand the charges against you, the severity of those charges, the possible penalties they carry, or the lasting impacts that a conviction may have on your life. Knowing the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony is one way to begin to understand the nature of the criminal charges you are facing.


The major distinction between a misdemeanor and felony is the seriousness of the crime that has been committed. The seriousness of a crime is determined in several different ways, and is typically spelled out by the law. Some basic distinctions between different criminal drug offenses can provide a useful illustration.

Possession of drug paraphernalia, as well as possession of very small amounts of marijuana, is considered to be a misdemeanor in many jurisdictions. In contrast, possession of small amounts of substances such as cocaine and heroin are commonly considered felonies. Possession of larger amounts of all of these substances, as well as the delivery, distribution and trafficking of illegal drugs would generally carry a felony charge, as these are considered more serious legal infractions.

For a more detailed breakdown of drug offense and punishment ranges, check out our page on drug crimes, and scroll to the bottom of the page for a useful and informative chart of common offenses, their descriptions, and possible penalties.


As one may expect, felonies generally carry harsher and longer sentences, while misdemeanors generally result in shorter jail terms or even fines without imprisonment. In cases of both felonies and misdemeanors, however, when someone is convicted, the amount of the fine or length of the prison sentence can vary widely. Fourth degree possession of marijuana, for example, can result in 6 – 24 months in state jail. Other particularities of an individual’s case will factor into the amount of time he or she receives.


If you have been charged with a felony or misdemeanor, do not handle your legal troubles on your own. Chris Downey is an accomplished Houston Felony Attorney and will aggressively defend you and your rights. Contact the Downey Law Firm today for premier legal consultation and criminal defense.