Misdemeanors vs. Felonies-What’s the Difference?

If you are arrested and charged with a crime, the classification of the crime you are accused of committing makes a major difference in what types of penalties you could be facing. In most states, less severe offenses fall into the “misdemeanor” category, while more severe offenses fall into the “felony” category. In the state of New Jersey, lesser offenses are placed in the “Petty disorderly person” and “disorderly person” offense categories, and more severe offenses are placed in the “crime” category. Here is some additional information that shows the difference between these different levels of criminal offenses.

Disorderly Person Offenses/Misdemeanors
A petty disorderly person offense can result in a sentence of up to 30 days in jail, while a disorderly person offense can result in a sentence of up to six months in jail. As mentioned, these offenses are considered to be similar to misdemeanors. Penalties for these types of offenses usually also include a fine, and in some cases, there may be a fine with no jail time. Defendants who are charged with misdemeanors (petty disorderly person and disorderly person offenses) usually have a better chance of receiving probation as an alternative to incarceration. These types of offenses are heard in municipal court.

In New Jersey, “crimes” (which are on the same level as felonies) are divided into four different degrees (first through fourth). The degree of the crime indicates the severity of the offense and the possible penalties that can be issued. These are offenses that can result in imprisonment for more than six months. Depending on the degree of the crime, the prison time could range from several months of imprisonment to decades of imprisonment. Cases that involve crimes in the first through fourth degrees are heard in Superior Court.

One important thing to think about when considering the difference between disorderly person offenses (misdemeanors) and crimes (felonies) is the different impact each will have on your record. Both types of offenses will be harmful to your record, but a crime or felony will do the most damage. In fact, many people have a very difficult time securing jobs or taking advantage of other opportunities in their lives when they have been convicted with the more serious type of offense.

Whether you have been charged with a misdemeanor or a felony, it is vital that you seek legal counsel as soon as possible for your criminal defense plan. At The Law Offices of Benjamin G. Kelsen, Esq. LLC, we have a Bergen County criminal defense lawyer who can provide you with skillful legal representation from start to finish of your criminal proceedings. Contact us so we can begin assisting you!


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Benjamin G. Kelsen Esq. provides efficient legal representation for Criminal Defense & DWI Defense Cases in Hackensack, Garfield & Teaneck.

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