What is the Difference Between a Felony & a Misdemeanor?

Difference between felony and misdemeanor
What is the Difference Between a Felony & Misdemeanor?

In North Carolina, there is a major difference between a misdemeanor and a felony, the latter of which is the more severe charge.

Difference between felony and misdemeanor

In simple terms, the most basic distinction between the two types of offenses is in how they are punished. If convicted of a misdemeanor, one can face up to 150 days in jail. However, if convicted of a felony, the minimum punishment is twelve months in prison. No maximums are explicitly defined by state law and all crimes that are punishable by death in North Carolina are felonies.


Misdemeanors are not nearly as serious as a felony in North Carolina, but that does not mean they are insignificant criminal offense. The state ranks these crimes into four different classes:

  • Class 3: This is the least serious type of misdemeanor and carries a maximum penalty of 20 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. Examples of Class 3 misdemeanor offenses include disorderly conduct and possession of less than half an ounce of marijuana.
  • Class 2: The maximum penalty is 60 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. Examples of Class 2 misdemeanor offenses include simple assault and issuing a worthless check valued at $2,000 or less.
  • Class 1: This type of misdemeanor is punishable by up to 120 days in jail and a fine set by the judge’s direction. Examples of Class 1 misdemeanor offenses include larceny under $1,000 and driving with a revoked license. If a Class 2 or a Class 3 misdemeanor was committed because of the victim’s race, color, nationality, religion, or country of origin, it would be charged as a Class 1 misdemeanor.
  • Class A1: This is the most serious type of misdemeanor, for which the penalty is up to 150 days in jail and a discretionary fine. Class A1 misdemeanors include sexual battery and assault with a deadly weapon.


In North Carolina, felonies are divided into 10 different classifications: A, B1, B2, C, D, E, F, G, H, and I. Unlike misdemeanors, felonies generally do not have hard rules set for punishments. However, all Class A felonies are punishable by death or life imprisonment. Sentences for lesser felonies can include a combination of fines, probation, and prison terms of any length. A judge on your case would take the seriousness of the offense into account as well as your previous criminal record. Additionally, the judge can also choose to suspend the sentence and impose probation or community punishment.

Raleigh Criminal Defense Lawyers

If you are facing criminal charges, now is the time to discuss your case with a skilled and experienced criminal defense attorney. At Sandman, Finn & Fitzhugh, our top priority is advocating for your rights. We will do everything we can to reach your specific goals and ensure you receive the best possible defense.

Call our firm right away at (919) 887-8040 to schedule a free initial consultation with a knowledgeable member of our team.