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The Difference Between Misdemeanor and Felony Charges

Man in handcuffs

Criminal charges are serious and can result in severe consequences that have long-lasting effects. The potential penalties depend on the nature of the alleged offense and whether the crime is charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. While felony charges are more serious and carry harsher penalties, you must take any criminal charge seriously and should consider working with an experienced criminal defense attorney.

What Is the Difference Between a Misdemeanor and a Felony?

North Dakota criminal charges fall into two categories: felonies and misdemeanors.

The most significant difference between a felony and a misdemeanor is the maximum potential jail time if you are convicted. Misdemeanor convictions have a maximum jail sentence of less than three hundred-sixty days.   Misdemeanor sentences are often served in county jail while felony sentences may be served in prison.

Other differences include the size of the jury that will year your case and different collateral consequences for a felony conviction versus a misdemeanor conviction. In North Dakota, juries in misdemeanor cases are made up of 6 people (unless the defendant requests a jury of 12), while juries in felony trials consist of 12 people. If you are convicted of a felony you lose your right to vote while you are actually incarcerated, are no longer eligible to serve on a federal jury or a state dury while you are actually incarcerated, and are prohibited from owning a firearm for as long as ten years following release from incarceration, parole, or probation, whichever is later.

A felony conviction can also make it more difficult to find work or suitable housing. Employers are less likely to hire someone who has a felony conviction on their criminal record, and many landlords are reluctant to rent to convicted felons.

Common Misdemeanor Charges in North Dakota

Common misdemeanor charges in Fargo include:

  • Driving Under the Influence of Drugs or Alcohol (DUI)
  • Drug possession
  • Theft
  • Assault

Penalties for a misdemeanor conviction are as follows:

  • Class A misdemeanor - a maximum of 360 days, a fine of up to $3,000, or both
  • Class B misdemeanor - up to 30 days in jail, a fine of up to $1,500, or both

While misdemeanor charges may seem relatively minor, if you have been charged with a misdemeanor in North Dakota, you should take the criminal charges seriously. Conviction can result in serious consequences that can last for years.

Prosecutors often have a significant amount of discretion over how to charge a criminal act. In some cases, the same activity can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the prosecutor’s discretion. An experienced criminal defense lawyer may be able to negotiate a felony charge down to a misdemeanor. The earlier you can get a lawyer involved the more likely it is that your lawyer will be able to negotiate a successful resolution.

Common Felony Charges in Fargo

North Dakota felony criminal charges are serious and can result in years in prison. Sex crimes, violent crimes, drug crimes, and property crimes are all examples of felonies. Penalties for a felony conviction are severe and North Dakota punishes felony convictions according to the following classification:

  • Class AA felony - life in prison without parole
  • Class A felony - up to 20 years in prison, a fine of $20,000, or both
  • Class B felony - up to 10 years in prison, a fine of $20,000, or both
  • Class C felony - up to 5 years in prison, a fine of up to $10,000, or both

Class AA felonies include crimes such as murder, gross sexual imposition, and continuous sexual abuse of a child.

Treason, kidnapping, and robbery with a dangerous weapon are examples of Class A felonies.

Class B felonies include possession with intent to manufacture or distribute controlled substances, manslaughter, aggravated assault with aggravated circumstances, and manslaughter involving an unborn child.

Aggravated Assault, felony drug or drug paraphernalia possession, felony theft, perjury, negligent homicide, and luring a child under age 15 to engage in sexual conduct are examples of Class C felonies.

If you have been charged with a felony in North Dakota, you should hire a criminal defense attorney immediately to protect your rights and defend you against the criminal allegations.

How a Fargo Criminal Defense Attorney Can Help

Whether you have been charged with a felony or a misdemeanor, you should contact a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. The criminal defense lawyers at Fremstad Law are here to help you move forward from a criminal charge.

Fargo, North Dakota criminal defense attorney Nick Thornton has been defending people accused of crimes since 2006. He is passionate about representing his clients and continuously works to improve his advocacy skills through advanced training. Nick is currently working on a Ph.D. in criminal justice and is a graduate of the prestigious National Criminal Defense College Trial Practice Institute as well as the Western Trial Advocacy Institute. Nick has represented thousands of people in North Dakota who have been accused of crimes and is proud to help his clients get the justice they deserve. 

When you work with Nick, you will find him to be meticulously prepared. He thoroughly reviews every case he handles, and will aggressively defend your rights by identifying inconsistencies in the prosecution’s case and challenging the evidence against you.

If you have been charged with a crime in North Dakota, you need an experienced criminal defense lawyer on your side. Contact the Fargo, North Dakota criminal defense lawyers at Fremstad Law today to learn how we can help move you forward.


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