Sunday, July 19, 2015

Know The Difference: Felony v. Misdemeanor



All crimes in the State of Washington are enumerated in the Revised Code of Washington (RCW). These codes define what a crime is, lay out the elements of each crime and, in many cases, provide sentencing guidelines for the specific criminal act. Crimes are divided into two categories: misdemeanors and felonies. The less serious offenses are known as misdemeanors, and are further divided into simple misdemeanors and gross misdemeanors. All misdemeanor cases are heard in Municipal and District Courts; and the Court is determined by the law enforcement agency that conducts the investigation and the Prosecutors office assigned to the particular jurisdiction. The more serious offenses are known as a felony. Felonies are categorized into classes A, B, or C in descending order of seriousness. All felony cases are heard in the Superior Court of the particular county the crime is alleged to have occurred.

A misdemeanor is often regarded as a minor criminal offense. Examples of simple misdemeanors include disorderly conduct, driving while license suspended in the third degree and solicitation of a prostitute. A simple misdemeanor carries a maximum penalty of up to 90 days in jail and fines of up to $1,000. A gross misdemeanor is a much more serious offense. Driving while under the influence of alcohol/drugs is a gross misdemeanor as well as an assault in the 4th degree charge and theft in the 3rd degree. These offenses carry penalties of up to one year in jail and fines of up to $5,000. Some misdemeanors such as a driving under the influence offense carry mandatory punishments per the RCW. Penalties often depend on the nature of the offense, any aggravating factors involved, and the prior criminal history of the offender.

Felony crimes are much more serious than misdemeanors. A felony crime includes offenses such offenses as murder, robbery, rape, burglary, and sales or distribution of illegal drugs. Class A felonies are the most serious offenses and are punishable by prison sentences which can include life, as well as fines of up to $50,000. Class B felonies carry penalties of up to 10 years in prison and fines of up to $20,000. Class C felonies are punishable by up to 5 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines.

The Washington State sentencing guidelines further classifies each felony crime by assigning specific standard ranges for each charge. These standard ranges are used to determine the amount of time a defendant could be incarcerated for if convicted of a particular felony charge. Fifteen seriousness levels exist from Level I to Level XV which carry corresponding sentencing ranges for each level. At the time of sentencing on a felony charge, a pre-sentence report is typically required by the respective sentencing judge who makes the final determination of the exact sentence that the defendant will receive. These pre-sentence reports often time include information such as criminal, family, and employment history, psychological assessments, statements from victims, and often times will include each parties recommendation to the Court of what they believe would be a fair and just sentence. 

If you or a loved one is in a bind as a result of a criminal charge, immediately contact a Seattle Criminal Attorney. A Criminal lawyer is not going to judge you, and understands that everyone makes mistakes. Hiring a Seattle Criminal Lawyer to help can – at a minimum – reduce penalties, and can help direct people on how to best deal with their criminal charge, and many times even get them dismissed. So it should go without saying that someone cited for a misdemeanor or felony should hire a qualified Seattle Criminal Lawyer as soon as possible. Criminal charges can cause havoc on a person’s personal and professional life. Anyone charged with a crime in Washington State should immediately seek the assistance of a seasoned Seattle Criminal Lawyer.

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