Criminal offenses can be divided into numerous categories, but it often starts with misdemeanors vs. felonies. These are the two general classes of crimes that someone can be accused of in most states. Misdemeanors are usually less serious, and they risk less strict sentences. Felonies are more serious, and, as a result, risk far more serious sentences – such as larger fines, longer time behind bars and a more consequential criminal record.
In some cases, a misdemeanor can be upgraded to a felony if there are aggravating factors. An example of this can occur when someone gets stopped for impaired driving. It may be a misdemeanor base offense, but then factors like having children in the car could turn it into a felony charge.
What will my trial be like?
With a misdemeanor, you may not end up having a trial. People will often see their charges dismissed prior to trial, or they will accept a plea bargain. For instance, people will sometimes be given the option to plead guilty to a misdemeanor rather than going to trial for a potential felony.
If you do have to go to trial, there are many different steps that have to take place. It’s important to go to every single hearing and to know exactly what the schedule looks like. If you decide to plead not guilty, you will then have a day in court to demonstrate your side of the story to the judge and/or the jury. Even if convicted, you will then have a separate sentencing hearing for a felony.
How will my family be impacted?
Criminal charges can have a major impact on your family in the short term. They may attend some of these hearings or court dates with you. If they were involved in the alleged activity, they may have to give a testimony saying what they believe happened.
But the biggest impacts can be long-term. if you’re convicted on felony charges, you could face years behind bars. You could also have a permanent record that will make it difficult to get a job or housing when you are released. It’s definitely important to think about the long-term changes that may come about in your life due to having a felony on your record.
This is also why you need to know about all of your legal defense options. Regardless of the charges you’re facing, you deserve to make informed choices. Seeking legal guidance is generally the best first step forward in this regard.