Misdemeanors and felonies are frequently discussed in the news and among the general public. But have you ever wondered about their exact meanings and how they differ from each other? Let’s explore these distinctions in more detail.

In the United States federal criminal code, crimes are divided into two primary categories: misdemeanors and felonies. Both types of offenses violate nearby and state laws and are punishable by serving time in jail.

Lawyers and lawmakers generally agree that misdemeanors typically result in lighter sentences, often involving up to twelve months of jail time plus a probationary period, depending on the seriousness of the case. On the other hand, felonies are considered more severe crimes committed with malicious intent and can lead to jail sentences exceeding twelve months.

Now that we have clarified that, what exactly differentiates misdemeanors from felonies? While many lawyers emphasize the difference lies in the length of the sentence, we should also consider the severity of the crime itself. Let’s examine some specific cases to gain a deeper understanding.


Disturbing the peace is a common charge we encounter in society, encompassing various actions such as bullying, public fights, or unauthorized gatherings. Any behavior that disrupts the public’s tranquility falls under this category.

In most cases, disturbing the peace is classified as a misdemeanor. However, certain circumstances can elevate the crime to a felony, depending on the severity and the jurisdiction of the state. Committing a crime that disturbs the peace in a state with stricter penalties is unlikely.

The penalty for disturbing the peace can range up to one year of jail time, taking into account the circumstances surrounding the crime and its impact.


Assault is a crime that comes in different forms and degrees of severity. In many cases, lawyers consider assault a misdemeanor if the suspect threatens the victim without causing physical harm. If found guilty, the defendant may face a jail term ranging from six months to one year.

However, if the assault results in physical injury or involves the use of weapons, judges consider it a felony. In such cases, the defendant can be sentenced to one year or even up to twenty-five years in prison, depending on the severity of the crime.


Theft involves unlawfully taking someone’s valuable possessions, such as bags, jewelry, or luxury items. The severity of theft varies and depends on whether it is classified as a misdemeanor or a felony, which is determined by the state and often based on the value of the stolen goods. In most places, theft is considered a misdemeanor if the total value of the stolen items is below $500. If the value exceeds this threshold, it becomes a felony.

Misdemeanor theft convictions can result in a jail term of up to one year, while felony theft, often referred to as larceny, can lead to significantly longer prison sentences.


The classification of a crime as a misdemeanor or felony is not solely based on severity or value. It can also depend on the identity of the victim, as is the case with indecent exposure.

Exposing private parts to the public is generally considered a misdemeanor by lawyers. However, the situation changes if the exposure occurs in the presence of a child. Depending on the state and the age limit defined, the crime may be categorized as either a felony or a misdemeanor.


Among the most common offenses are traffic violations, including speeding, driving without a license or insurance, and driving under the influence (DUI), which typically fall under misdemeanor offenses.

However, traffic violations can become felonies if the defendant flees the scene of an accident or if the incident results in vehicular homicide. Felony convictions for such offenses can lead to prison terms ranging from one year to potentially life imprisonment.

By examining these specific cases, we can better comprehend the differences between misdemeanors and felonies. It is crucial to consult legal professionals to understand the specific laws and implications related to each offense.