Being accused of a crime in New York can be a frightening thing, especially when legal jargon is thrown around. For example, there are important differences between felonies and misdemeanors that should be understood, particularly when it comes to the penalties associated with these classifications.
Under the New York Penal Code, a misdemeanor is defined as a crime, other than a traffic offense, that if convicted carries a prison sentence of one year or less. A felony, on the other hand, is a crime that if convicted carries a prison sentence of over one year. Those with traffic tickets may find it helpful to know that these are separate from what the code has set aside as "traffic infractions." Misdemeanors are further broken down into class A, class B and unclassified misdemeanors. For example, possession of marijuana in the fifth degree is a class B misdemeanor, while third-degree assault is a class A misdemeanor.
In general, in New York a class A misdemeanor carries with it a fine of no more than $1,000 and a prison term of no more than one year, while a class B misdemeanor carries with it a fine of no more than $500 and a prison term of no more than three months. Prison sentences for felony sentences vary based on the type of offense.
Since the consequences vary so widely, it is important to understand the difference between a felony and a misdemeanor in New York. It may seem obvious the negative effects a felony conviction could have on a person's life, including lengthy prison sentences and the potential for steep fines. However, even a conviction of a misdemeanor has negative consequences, as discussed above. It is therefore important that those accused of such crimes develop a solid criminal defense strategy.
Source: Laws of New York, Penal Code §§10.00, 221.10, 120.00, 80.05, accessed Nov. 16, 2014