Differences Between Misdemeanors and Felonies
Consequences for misdemeanors and felony convictions are entirely different. A defendant must understand which crime he has been charged with in order to understand what will happen if convicted.
Generally, a single misdemeanor crime is punishable by up to a maximum of one year in county jail. Misdemeanor trials are held in the state's lower court, formerly referred to as Municipal Court. (However, now all State Courts are referred to as Superior Court). Some examples of misdemeanor crimes include: drunk driving, trespassing and shoplifting less than $400.00 dollars worth of merchandise.
A felony crime is punishable by one year or more in state prison or a penitentiary. Felonies begin in the state's lower court system but may move up to the state Superior Court, or higher court. Some sample felony crimes include murder, rape, or armed robbery.
The misdemeanor and felony arraignment processes are virtually identical to one another with one exception. In the misdemeanor arraignment process, a pre-trial in Municipal Court is the next step following arraignment. In the felony arraignment process, the next step is a pre-preliminary hearing or a preliminary hearing. Once the preliminary hearing is completed, and a defendant is "held to answer to the charges" a trial date is established.
It is recommended that the defendant receive legal representation prior to arraignment. A public defender may have little time to review the case before arraignment, or may not even be assigned the case until arraignment. Preparation is key to a successful defense. A private attorney can meet with the defendant prior to arraignment, review the case, and provide the defendant with step-by-step options prior to the arraignment process.
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