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Felonies vs misdemeanors: understanding the classification

The criminal justice system categorizes crime by several categories. The two broadest categories are misdemeanors and felonies. Generally, a crime’s severity determines its category.

The categorization of misdemeanors versus felonies may seem confusing to many, especially because the specifications can vary state to state. Here, we will take a look at how the state of Illinois determines misdemeanors and felonies.

What is a misdemeanor?

Misdemeanors are the less severe of the two categories. Typically, misdemeanors are any offense that carry a sentence of up to one year in jail. These offenses include:

  • Petty theft
  • Simple assault
  • Reckless driving
  • Possession of marijuana for personal use
  • Disorderly conduct

The state also divides misdemeanors into Class A, Class B or Class C misdemeanors, where Class A charges are the most serious and Class C misdemeanors are least severe.

What is a felony?

The state classifies severe criminal charges as felonies. Typically, these charges can rack up a sentence of one or more years in jail. Some examples of these charges include:

  • Burglary and robbery
  • Assault and battery
  • Home invasion
  • White collar crimes
  • Possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute
  • Manufacture of a controlled substance

Illinois has four classes for felonies, with Class 1 felonies being the most severe and Class 4 felonies being the least severe.

Both categories of crime have long-lasting consequences

If convicted of a felony, you will have the marker of being a felon for the rest of your life. And, though the penalties for misdemeanors are not as serious as those of felonies, the consequences can still impact your future for years. Any criminal conviction can negatively affect your housing options, career, education and personal relationships.

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