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What is the difference between a felony and a misdemeanor?

White Law Office, Co. > Criminal Law  > What is the difference between a felony and a misdemeanor?

What is the difference between a felony and a misdemeanor?

Criminal charges in Ohio generally fit into two categories: felonies and misdemeanors. So what is the difference between the two?


Traditionally, a felony charge carries a potential prison sentence or the death penalty. Whether or not prison or death is imposed may be up to the jury or judge. 


Two major changes have happened to change the general definition of felonies. The first is “mandatory sentences.”


Mandatory sentences are imposed for crimes involving among other things: sex, drug, and firearms offenses. If a person is convicted of this kind of crime, they must be sentenced to prison.


The second is “non-prison” felonies. These offenses are largely lower-level drug possession offenses.  Even though these offenses are not felonies if convicted a person may not be sent to prison. Non-prison felonies permit legislators to claim that they are tough on crime while not having to provide more money for prisons.


Felonies are tried in the General Division of the Court of Common Pleas after an indictment is returned by the Grand Jury.


Misdemeanors are generally offenses which may be punished by county jail sentences and fines. These are viewed as relatively minor offenses as opposed to felonies. Misdemeanors are tried in Municipal or County Courts.


Similar activity may be charged as a felony or a misdemeanor. Good representation is essential is dealing with the prosecution to seek a desirable outcome. Please contact the White Law Office, Co. to discuss your case.

Thomas D. White

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