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What Are The Differences Between Felonies and Misdemeanors?

In South Carolina, there are two primary types of crime known as felonies and misdemeanors. Misdemeanors are less severe criminal offenses and have lighter penalties than felonies. Felonies, on the other hand, encompass various serious criminal offenses. They carry harsh penalties, depending on the specific crime and class of felony.

How Felonies Differ From Misdemeanors in South Carolina

There are key differences between misdemeanor and felony offenses in SC. These include:

The Scope and Severity of The Criminal Offense

The most telling difference between a misdemeanor offense and a felony offense is the seriousness of the crime and the consequences to the victim. For instance, getting caught with a tiny amount of illegal drugs is very different from selling or manufacturing illegal drugs. In addition, punching someone in the face is significantly less serious than shooting someone with a gun.

The Penalties

While some misdemeanor crimes come with jail time, judges have the option to remove jail time, depending on the specific misdemeanor crime. Additionally, jail time for misdemeanors typically means getting locked up in county jail instead of state prison. Misdemeanors also carry shorter jail sentences and less costly fines.

For instance, getting charged with a misdemeanor can land you in jail for one, two, or three years, depending on whether it’s a class C, B, or A misdemeanor crime. Also, if the judge believes the defendant will be better off out of jail, they can sentence them to an alternative court program, misdemeanor probation, community service, diversion program, pretrial intervention program, or pay restitution to victims.

On the other hand, it’s vital to note that some misdemeanor crimes can be bumped up into felony crimes. For example, if you have a repeat misdemeanor crime or committed a crime against vulnerable people, including family members, children, the elderly, etc., or a crime involving increased injury, you may be charged with a felony instead of a misdemeanor.

With felonies, the fines are significantly higher, and prison sentences are longer. If you’re charged with a felony offense, you face five, 10, 15, 20, 25, or 30 years in prison, depending on whether your charge is a class F, E, D, C, B, or A felony offense. Be warned that certain felonies carry the possibility of life imprisonment or the death penalty.

Judges also have the option of enhancing prison sentences for repeat felony offenders. For instance, a subsequent or second offense might come with the maximum prison sentence, make the period longer for parole eligibility, or remove the option of probation or parole.

The Long-Term Consequences

A conviction for a felony or misdemeanor will negatively affect your life, sometimes for a very long time. You can lose your driving privileges, professional license, livelihood, right to have a firearm, and freedom. You may also have a difficult time securing a loan, getting a nice place to live, or getting into the school of your dreams. Additionally, most felony crimes cannot be expunged and will stay on your record forever.

Talk to a Skilled Columbia South Carolina Criminal Defense Lawyer Now

Whether you’re facing a misdemeanor or felony charge, the South Carolina criminal defense lawyers at Sharpe & Leventis are here to help you secure the best possible results for your case. Call 803-830-6296 or send us an online message to arrange your free consultation with our South Carolina criminal defense lawyer.