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The Fine Line Between a Felony and Misdemeanor Charge

In this video, Just Criminal Law’s Christina Williams discusses the differences between a misdemeanor and a felony. It includes topics from possession of controlled substances to large theft.

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Transcript

00:00:00:11 – 00:00:21:14
Speaker 1
Hey, everybody, this is Christina Williams with Just Criminal Law. It’s all we do today. Let’s talk about the different levels of crimes specific. What’s the difference between a felony charge and a misdemeanor charge? And along for the discussion, I have David Mann. Hi, David.00:00:21:19 – 00:00:44:10
Speaker 2
Hi there, Christina. Yes. So this is one of those another one where, you know, we’ve all heard the term misdemeanor and felony. And we all know that felony is worse than misdemeanor. But when you get into it, you go, well, but what if there’s a line that you cross that where it goes, where the same sort of crime goes from being a smaller offense to a larger offense.00:00:44:10 – 00:00:53:12
Speaker 2
So I thought we just look at a few examples from your experience. Is there a general no distinction between misdemeanor and felony first?00:00:54:06 – 00:01:20:07
Speaker 1
Yes. A misdemeanor offense is an offense that’s punishable by less than a year in jail. And a felony is an offense that’s punishable by greater than a year in jail. And there’s other consequences that go along with a felony, such as you lose your right to own or possess a firearm, you lose your right to vote, hold public office.00:01:20:07 – 00:01:30:12
Speaker 1
And then obviously you have that scar or that stain on your record that you’re required to disclose. A lot of times saying you’re a convicted felon.00:01:31:10 – 00:01:42:02
Speaker 2
And that doesn’t go away once you have that. I mean, it can with good legal counsel, but it there’s no like limit on the time. It’s going to stay there for a long time. Right? Forever.00:01:42:03 – 00:01:46:22
Speaker 1
Right. Basically, your criminal record is permanent for the most part.00:01:47:05 – 00:02:03:15
Speaker 2
Okay. Yes. We’ve all heard about our permanent record, and this is actually the real one, so. All right. In one of the videos we talked or several of the videos we’ve talked about drug possession and we’ve zeroed in on a few of the videos on marijuana possession. And I know there’s a distinction in the amount of marijuana. Right.00:02:03:15 – 00:02:08:22
Speaker 2
That constitutes a misdemeanor versus felony. What is that amount?00:02:09:04 – 00:02:33:09
Speaker 1
Well, in order to be a felony amount of marijuana we’re talking about plant form, you need to possess greater than three ounces. And so anything under that three ounce mark is is going to be punishable by less than a year in prison. Anything over three ounces. And you’re looking at very serious consequences.00:02:34:04 – 00:02:54:07
Speaker 2
Okay. And I remember in that video we showed a baggie that had one ounce in it. And so it’s it’s three ounces is I suppose. I mean, you can imagine sort of a small sandwich baggie half full is about an ounce. And so three of those is three ounces and more than that is going to get you in big trouble.00:02:54:27 – 00:03:07:16
Speaker 2
So yeah, and that consequence would be that that that distinction that you mentioned there. So what about something like theft? I mean, there’s lots of versions of theft. So when is it a misdemeanor versus a felony?00:03:08:14 – 00:03:35:25
Speaker 1
Well, the point where a misdemeanor theft is a felony is when someone steals something that’s worth $1,000 or more. So, you know, say you’re at the rec center and you’ve got your iPad and your your iPhone in your backpack and somebody steals it. That value is greater than $1,000. And so that person’s looking at a felony.00:03:36:19 – 00:03:40:19
Speaker 2
Wow. So that person could go to jail for over a year for that.00:03:41:17 – 00:03:51:12
Speaker 1
Potentially. Now, you know, whether or not that would happen depends on other circumstances. But yes, the possible penalty is over a year. Yeah.00:03:51:20 – 00:04:09:04
Speaker 2
So what? So if someone steals something that is obviously worth like many, many thousands of dollars, then that’s clear. But the example that you gave there, where it’s kind of on the line like it would be there, it would be a subjective, you know, who gets to decide how much that thing is worth. Is that a matter that comes up in the hearing?00:04:10:05 – 00:04:33:02
Speaker 1
Yes. And when you’re looking at valuing something that’s used, that’s something that we need to talk about a lot of times is what was the value at the time it was taken. And you know something? The other side takes into consideration is, well, how much would it cost for me to replace it? So the lawyers kind of have to negotiate that.00:04:34:06 – 00:04:41:24
Speaker 1
It doesn’t mean that we can stop you from being charged with a felony. We just might be able to prevent you from being convicted of one.00:04:42:05 – 00:04:57:00
Speaker 2
Okay. So, again, it sounds like good legal counsel can really help with this. So what about sexual assault? We’ve talked sometimes about those kind of crimes and what distinguishes misdemeanor from felony there?00:04:57:23 – 00:05:28:05
Speaker 1
Well, an example would be, say you’ve got a 19 year old boy and a 15 year old girl and they’re, you know, in a relationship and they’re engaged in what would be considered in modest or immoral acts. And that age difference right there can land the 19 year old with a felony if for some reason the parents or the girl later decide that they want to prosecute over that.00:05:28:21 – 00:05:50:05
Speaker 1
Now, that would be, you know, you’re in felony type of trouble there versus if it was an 18 year old and a 15 year old and and that same immoral conduct, you know, say they’re making out or whatever the case may be, is not going to even be a crime. So.00:05:51:02 – 00:06:00:12
Speaker 2
Okay. Okay. So it’s an age difference or a break over the 18 mark in the amount of years that constitutes this. Is that right?00:06:01:00 – 00:06:17:17
Speaker 1
Well, yeah. It has to do with the age of the girl and the age of the boy. And so if it’s greater than four years and she’s under 17, then that’s where you’re looking at a potential felony problem.00:06:17:18 – 00:06:28:26
Speaker 2
Okay. Okay. What about wrecking stuff? You know, damage to property? How does that get categorized as a small versus a large crime?00:06:29:26 – 00:06:48:18
Speaker 1
Again, it’s the thousand dollar mark. So if you’ve got property damage that’s greater than $1,000, then they can charge you with a felony and under a thousand would be a misdemeanor. Those would both be destruction of property charges, but one would be less severe than the other.00:06:49:07 – 00:07:06:25
Speaker 2
Okay. And a destruction of property that say it’s around. You know, it’s again on the line like someone’s going to say, oh, that’s $800 worth of damage. Someone else says, well, that’s 1500 dollars worth of damage. Are you looking at a year in prison, possibly for that, or is it more like a monetary punishment?00:07:07:15 – 00:07:31:02
Speaker 1
Well, a lot of times, you know, and this is just in my experience, as long as the property gets replaced or repaired and the person hasn’t been in a lot of trouble before, it’s it’s just a matter of working out a plea deal to make sure that the property is back the way it was before all this happened.00:07:31:02 – 00:07:37:07
Speaker 1
And then, unfortunately, you know, there’s the potential for jail time, but usually it’s just probation.00:07:38:00 – 00:07:53:18
Speaker 2
Okay. Now, tell us a bit here as we as we sort of wrap these all together, what can you do to help people in these situations or, you know, is this something that they can handle any of these on their own and get the best deal?00:07:54:16 – 00:08:36:15
Speaker 1
Well, as far as really being able to explain the circumstances of the client’s case and negotiate a plea deal, you know, you really want a good attorney that’s going to be able to put those facts and circumstances forward that will help mitigate the the wrongdoing. That would be the most preferential way to handle something like this. But, yes, we can routinely help our clients not become felons through these negotiations or by taking cases to trial and a lot of times, you know, you can’t do that without a good lawyer.00:08:36:28 – 00:08:48:12
Speaker 2
Right. Because there’s a lot of nuance, subtlety and complexity to all of this that maybe it doesn’t look like there is at first. But it sounds like talking to you here. There is. So they might want to get in touch with you for some of that help. And how do they do that?00:08:49:05 – 00:09:01:12
Speaker 1
Sure. They can click the link in the description and call text or chat with a member of my team any time, day or night. We know you only get one shot at justice, so make yours count.

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