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Felony and Misdemeanor

Updated on August 31, 2009

Criminal Law

Criminal law refers to a written code defining what is considered a crime and the guidelines for such punishment. The federal government and each individual state has its own variation of the criminal code. Most of the state codes use the same terms and have similar guidelines in considering the behaviors they try to control and classifying them as either felony or misdemeanor. 

Criminal codes serve different functions. The primary purpose is to control societys behavior within a jurisdiction. Criminal laws are the rules set forth to which we must conform in order to live well within our society. It prevents us from carrying on with prohibited behavior that may threaten societies well being. Secondly, criminal laws control the desire to seek revenge or vengance upon the perpetrators. Lastly, criminal laws reflects the constant changes in public opinion and moral values. While some crimes we all agree should be universally prohibited other crimes like possession of marijuana and gambling may change according to public sentiment, current conditions and social attitudes. Within the criminal code these changes can take effect and are sometimes ammended. 

A felony as opposed to a misdemeanor is a crime that can be punishable by a year or more in a state prison. A misdemeanor is a crime punishable by less than a year in a county jail or detention facility. The distinction is based on the seriousness of the crime. A felony is a serious crime while a misdemeanor is considered a minor one.

Some offenses like battery and assault, originally meant to be misdemeanors by common law are now treated as felonies by many states when a weapon is used or when committed during the commission of another felony. Battery and Assault are mistakenly believed to be the same crime but they are actually two separte individual acts of crimes. Battery always involves offensive touching, like hitting or punching. Assault does not involve touching but involves an attempt to batter or intentionally frighten with words or actions.

In the interest of shortening this hub I have listed a few of the most common felonies and defined them below. Misdemeanors are pretty self explanatory. There are many more offenses outlined in the crime codes not listed here. For a full list see the link below.


Arson - Intentional burning of anothers dwelling

Burglary - Breaking and entering into someones home for the purpose of committing a felony act.

Larceny - Taking someone elses belongings and carrying them away with the intent of keeping them.

First degree Murder - Killing of another human being wtih malice and premeditation

Manslaughter - Accidental killing of another human being

Aggravated Battery - Unlawfully touching someone else with intent to cause injury

Rape - Unlawful sexual intercourse without consent.

Robbery - Taking anothers personal property from his person by violence or intimidation

Aggravated Assaults - Placing another in fear of receiving an injury

Controlled Substance Drugs - Illegal drug use, possession and Distribution


DUI or DWI - Driving under the influence or Driving while intoxicated

Domestic Violence

Simple Battery

Driving w/Suspended License

Poss of Marijuana < 20 grams

Criminal Mischief


Petty Theft or Shoplifting

Disturbing the Peace

Unarmed Assault


Crimes Classified by degrees

775.081 Classifications of felonies and misdemeanors.--

(1) Felonies are classified, for the purpose of sentence and for any other purpose specifically provided by statute, into the following categories:

(a) Capital felony;

(b) Life felony;

(c) Felony of the first degree;

(d) Felony of the second degree; and

(e) Felony of the third degree.

A capital felony and a life felony must be so designated by statute. Other felonies are of the particular degree designated by statute. Any crime declared by statute to be a felony without specification of degree is of the third degree, except that this provision shall not affect felonies punishable by life imprisonment for the first offense.

(2) Misdemeanors are classified, for the purpose of sentence and for any other purpose specifically provided by statute, into the following categories:

(a) Misdemeanor of the first degree; and

(b) Misdemeanor of the second degree.

A misdemeanor is of the particular degree designated by statute. Any crime declared by statute to be a misdemeanor without specification of degree is of the second degree.

(3) This section is supplemental to, and is not to be construed to alter, the law of this state establishing and governing criminal offenses that are divided into degrees by virtue of distinctive elements comprising such offenses, regardless of whether such law is established by constitutional provision, statute, court rule, or court decision.



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    • profile image

      Frenchie 3 years ago

      If you're reading this, you're all set, paednrr!

    • Bail Up ! profile image

      Bail Up ! 6 years ago


      the list above was meant to be a general outline. You are right, some crimes can be either misdemeanor or felonies depending on the other circumstances. Listing every charge and degree would require numerous hubs.

    • litlfroggi profile image

      litlfroggi 6 years ago

      You need to recheck all of your crimes...many states allow misdemeanors and felony charges for the crimes listed above, not just one or the other. You can be charged with felony Domestic Violence for example, as well as controlled substances. CS's can be felony or misdemeanor, it depends of quantity, and what you're doing with it, i.e. trafficking, intent to sell, etc. Many times battery and assault are used interchangeably also.

    • Bail Up ! profile image

      Bail Up ! 8 years ago

      fastfreda thank you for taking the time to read this hub. DUI's are misdemeanors however A DUI case may be charged as a felony where someone is injured, or where the accused has three or more prior DUI convictions. These violations must have happened within ten (10) years of the new charge to count against the accused as a prior conviction.

    • fastfreta profile image

      Alfreta Sailor 8 years ago from Southern California

      Bail up, I really learned a few things by reading this hub, for instance, I always thought DUI was a felony. Keep 'em coming. Thanks for this very informative hub.