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How Do Prosecutors Decide on Felony vs. Misdemeanor?

When you are charged with a crime, there are two types of charges you may face.  The first, known as a misdemeanor, is a relatively small crime that carries a light sentence.  A misdemeanor is a crime that carries a penalty of less than one year in jail and relatively small fines.  Felony charges, on the other hand, can result in many years in prison thousands of dollars in fines. A prosecutor will decide whether to charge you with a misdemeanor or a felony based on several factors.  If you can have your charges “dropped down” to a misdemeanor, you may ultimately serve less jail time and pay less money in fees as well as have fewer penalties altogether. How Do Prosecutors Determine Whether To Charge With A Felony? In some cases, prosecutors have no choice about charging you with a felony.  If you are a repeat offender, for example, the law may state that after a certain number of offenses your charges are automatically elevated to felony status.  However, in most cases, prosecutors have some discretion about whether to charge you with a felony or with a misdemeanor. There are many advantages to being charged with a misdemeanor rather than a felony.  For one thing, a misdemeanor will not appear on your criminal record as a felony.  Felony convictions can cause you to lose job opportunities and may have other negative effects on your life, while misdemeanors tend to have far fewer repercussions.  Felonies usually cost you far more money in both fines and attorney’s fees than misdemeanors. Many misdemeanors are tried in front of a judge without a jury present.  This can be an advantage as well, although there are times when you may want a jury trial rather than a bench trial. Prosecutors make the decision about charging you with a felony based on their feelings about the case.  If they do not believe there is enough evidence to charge you with a felony and get a conviction, they will often try to charge you with a misdemeanor in the hope that you will plead guilty.  Your attorney can advise you on the right way to handle such a charge. Oswalt Law Group offers advice to those who may be charged with a felony as well as those who are facing misdemeanor charges.  Call Oswalt Law Group today to discuss your case.

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