Do You Know the Differences Between a Misdemeanor and a Felony in Washington state?

April 2018

Maybe you’ve been charged with a crime, maybe you’ve been offered to have your charge reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor, or maybe you’re just curious – what are the differences between misdemeanors and felonies? There are major differences depending on the specific crime charged, but in general, here are the big differences.

Misdemeanors are typically considered more minor offenses and come with lighter consequences. Even within misdemeanors, however, there are different levels of seriousness. Simple misdemeanors can result in sentences of up to 90 days in jail and fines up to $1,000. Some examples of simple misdemeanors can include shoplifting, simple possession of marijuana and disorderly conduct. Then there are gross misdemeanors – these are more serious than simple misdemeanors but not as serious as felony cases. Gross misdemeanors can result in up to one year in jail and fines up to $5,000. The consequences you face will depend, in part, on the nature of the offense, your criminal history and any aggravating factors involved.

Felonies, on the other hand, are much more serious than any type of misdemeanor charge. These can result in prison sentences up to life in prison and fines up to $50,000.  Examples of felonies are burglary, rape, armed robbery, murder and distribution of drugs. There are 3 different classes of felonies, varying based on the seriousness of the offense.

  • Class A felonies can result in up to life in prison and $50,000 fines.

  • Class B felonies can result in up to 10 years in prison and $20,000 fines.

  • Class C felonies can result in up to 5 years in prison and $10,000 fines.

Sentences stemming from felony convictions are determined by a complex system of sentencing guidelines. The system is comprised of 15 levels of seriousness, each of which level corresponds to a range of sentences. When determining the sentencing guidelines, factors will be included such as: criminal history, family history, employment history, psychological assessments and victim statements.

Keep in mind, all criminal charges are serious – even simple misdemeanors – and can have huge impacts on your life including your freedoms, housing, student loans and employment. Never take a criminal charge lightly and always speak with an experienced attorney to guide you through the process and protect your rights. If you’ve been charged, think you may be charged or are in the process of navigating the system, give us a call today for a consultation.