In Massachusetts and many other states, there are a few different types of crimes. Two of those types are felonies and misdemeanors. But many people don’t understand the difference between the two. Here’s a closer look at how Massachusetts felonies differ from misdemeanors.
What are Massachusetts Misdemeanors?
In the state of Massachusetts, a misdemeanor is a crime that doesn’t merit time in a state prison. In many states, the definition is different. It’s often defined as a crime that merits less than one year in jail. However, in Massachusetts, any crime that does not punish an offender with time in a state prison is a misdemeanor.
A misdemeanor isn’t as minor as an infraction. While an infraction is something like driving through a stop sign, a misdemeanor is a little more serious. The punishment of the crime is also more serious. An infraction results in a ticket or a small fine, but a misdemeanor could result in jail time.
Although a misdemeanor could result in jail time, it doesn’t always. When you have a lawyer represent you in a misdemeanor case, they can often negotiate a deal. Misdemeanors can result in fines, time at a treatment center, or community service. Or, it can be a combination of things, including probation. In any case, you have some leeway. The punishment is at the discretion of the judge. And your punishment depends on your crime and the circumstances surrounding it. It also depends on the effectiveness of your lawyer.
Looking at a few examples helps to clarify the meaning of a misdemeanor. A misdemeanor could be a hunting violation or a first-time drunk driving offense. Disorderly conduct and most criminal driving offenses are also misdemeanors. The consequences of those crimes vary, but none of them require time in a state prison.
One of the saving graces of a misdemeanor is the fact that it doesn’t hold you back from working. While a misdemeanor may stay on your record, it doesn’t ban you from working in the military. You can also still get a job in law enforcement with a prior misdemeanor. If you’re under 18 at the time of the crime, the crime will disappear from your record. After you serve your time, your misdemeanor may not affect your life on a day-to-day basis.
What are Massachusetts Felonies?
Felonies are more serious crimes than misdemeanor crimes. Massachusetts felonies result in time at a state prison. However, in some other states a felony warrants over one year in jail. No matter where you are, a felony is a strict court room procedure. The consequences are more rigid than misdemeanors, and they are also more strict. There are set maximum punishments for felonies.
For example, a first-degree murder conviction in the state is a maximum of life in prison without parole. However, a judge could decide to limit your sentence. A judge might sentence someone with a first-degree murder conviction to 25 years and not the full life term. The maximums are just that; a number that limits how much time you can spend in prison. With an effective lawyer, you may be able to limit the consequences quite a bit.
Regardless of the amount of time you spend in jail for a felony, the charge follows you around. A felony remains on your record after you leave prison. Employers can easily find out about your past. And the charge can prevent you from serving in the military or working a job that requires security clearance. Many felons find it difficult to obtain work after release. Other possible consequences include your loss of the right to vote and your right to own a firearm. While expungement from your record is possible, it takes years and can be difficult to get.
How can a lawyer help?
There are many differences between felonies and misdemeanors. But there is one major similarity. In both types of charges, an experienced lawyer can help. While a felony has harsher consequences than a misdemeanor, you can still fight the charges. But you can’t fight them alone. You need the help of someone with experience in fighting criminal charges.
If you find a lawyer who has experience in your type of case, there’s a great deal of hope. There are several ways that they can help your case. For one, they may be able to get a judge to drop the charges. There are certain things that a police officer needs to say and do during the arrest. If they don’t stray from that behavior, a lawyer can use that to help your case.
It doesn’t matter what the circumstances of your case are. A lawyer can work towards limiting your sentence. They have the resources and knowledge to stand up for you in court. An attorney with experience in fighting Massachusetts felonies and misdemeanors knows how to get a better outcome. And they will do everything in their power to get you the best outcome possible.