Felonies vs. Misdemeanors

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Felonies and Misdemeanors in Tennessee

Representing those facing criminal charges in Maryville, Sevierville, Clinton, Lenoir City & Loudon

There are varying degrees to everything; criminal charges are no different. That’s why a kid who’s dared to steal a candy bar from the store doesn’t get lumped into the same category as a person who pulls out a gun, shoot a store clerk, and then robs the register.

But here’s the thing you need to remember: any type of criminal charge is a serious matter. Both misdemeanor and felony convictions can wreak havoc on your personal and professional life. At Banks and Jones, we treat felony and misdemeanor cases with the same level of focus and urgency, always handling a case with the utmost competence and preparedness. We recognize that whether you are facing charges for being drunk in public or for aggravated assault, you need the help our professionals are trained to give. Our lawyers are courtroom veterans who passionately defend your rights at every stage of your case.

A quick look at the differences between felonies and misdemeanors

Simply put, misdemeanors are considered “lesser” crimes than felonies: they’re less violent, do less physical damages, and carry less severe sentences.

The primary difference between misdemeanors and felonies is that misdemeanors are penalized by a year or less in jail and felonies are punishable by more than a year in prison. Jails are municipal short-term detainment facilities, while prisons are long-term, state-run holding facilities. Furthermore, while both misdemeanors and felonies appear on your record, felony convictions can deprive you of certain rights, including your right to bear arms, your right to hold public office and your right to vote.

Types of felonies

In Tennessee, felony crimes are serious offenses punishable by a year or more in prison. Depending on the facts of your case and severity of the crime, you could face other serious penalties, including steep fines and limits to certain liberties, such as your right to possess a firearm. Our adept defense lawyers represent clients accused of committing all types of felony offenses, including:

  • Homicide. Killing another person is a felony charge, no matter the circumstances. In fact, first-degree murder is a capital crime. That means you could be sentenced to death if convicted.
  • Aggravated assault. Aggravated assault is a very serious crime in Tennessee. Depending on the circumstances of your case, you face either Class C or Class D felony charges and could serve as many as 15 years in prison.
  • Rape or sexual assault. Every charge of non-consensual sexual conduct is a felony charge. Every. Single. One. If you’re convicted on these types of charges, you will end up on the national sex offender registry. Though the shortest prison sentence is a year, the longest penalty for a Class A felony – aggravated rape – is 60 years.
  • Burglary. Burglary charges are either a Class E or Class D felony. Aggravated burglary is a Class C felony, and especially aggravated burglary is a Class B felony.
  • Kidnapping. Kidnapping is the false imprisonment of another person. If you’re convicted of kidnapping in Tennessee, you face Class C felony charges.
  • Robbery. Robbery is the act of stealing money or an item of value from a person. The state of Tennessee punishes robbery offenders severely. If you’re convicted of the most basic form of robbery, you could face between three and 15 years in prison and $10,000 in fines.
  • Drug trafficking. Get caught with a joint won’t send you to prison. Getting caught with 500 opioid pills while trying to cross state lines, on the other hand, could land you in federal prison.
  • White collar crimes. If you’re charged with fraud or embezzlement or any of the types of charges you hear about on FBI dramas, those are always felony offenses. Like trafficking, they’re also heard in federal court.

If you are charged with any type of felony, seek the assistance of an experienced criminal defense law firm as soon as possible.

Types of misdemeanors

Misdemeanor crimes are lesser offenses and include crimes against public order and public safety and crimes against property. For example, if you are arrested for stealing $500 or less in money or property in the Knoxville area, the prosecution will likely charge you with petty theft — a misdemeanor offense punishable by no more than one year in jail. Similarly, possessing half an ounce of marijuana is a misdemeanor crime punishable by one year in jail and a maximum fine of $250.

Understanding the Consequences of Felonies vs. Misdemeanors

The Tennessee criminal code is complex, and virtually impossible to understand. That’s why you hire people like us when you’re facing charges; it’s essentially our job to know what it forwards and backwards. People who are new to the justice system have a lot of questions about their charges; the question that we hear a lot concerns the difference between felonies and misdemeanors, and how that difference can affect the bottom line if you’re convicted of a crime.

Simply put, felonies and misdemeanors have different punishments. It’s not that misdemeanors aren’t serious crimes – all crimes are serious. But the punishments for felonies are much harsher because felonies are considered more serious offenses.

  • A misdemeanor is (generally) an offense that is punishable by up to one year in jail.
  • A felony is a crime that’s punishable by more than one year in prison.

Most people in jail are awaiting a trial, or are being held lawfully for a short period of time. They’re run by the individual counties. A prison houses convicted felons for longer periods of time. Darren Hall, a Sheriff in Davidson County, likens the difference to emergency rooms vs. nursing homes, and the analogy is a good one.

It doesn’t stop with time in prison

The loss of your freedom is a strong enough punishment, but it’s not all you face if you’re convicted of a felony. While a misdemeanor charge may cost you up to $2,500, a felony conviction will cost you significantly more in fines ­ – up to $50,000. (Neither of these costs includes restitution, by the way.) And while a misdemeanor charge like shoplifting may keep you from getting a job for a while, a felony conviction can keep you from having any kind of real life. You’ll lose:

  • At least a year of your freedom
  • The right to vote
  • The right to bear arms
  • Potential income, as many companies won’t hire convicted felons (though they may not admit it)
  • Federal funding for a college education
  • The right to travel to other countries (in some cases, that is)

You also lose – though not officially – your right to privacy. You’ll have to meet with a probation officer who will keep tabs on everything you do. Court cases are public record, so your neighbors will know what you were charged with and how long you served for the crime. Your potential employers will do background checks on you (see bullet 4), and so do colleges (see bullet 5). All in all, you stand to lose any semblance to a “real” life.

Get sound guidance from a reputable defense law firm

Throughout the Knoxville area, our attorneys at Banks and Jones are known for providing clients with trustworthy criminal defense help. If you or your loved one has been arrested and charged with a felony or misdemeanor, call 865.407.2122 or contact us and speak with an experienced attorney today. Our regular office hours are Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., with other appointments available upon request.

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