By: Passalacqua & Associates

How Do Legal Strategies Differ in Defending Against Misdemeanor Versus Felony Charges?

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Could You Be Charged With a Felony or a Misdemeanor?

If you are arrested and charged with a crime in the Utica or Syracuse area, whether you are charged with a misdemeanor or with a felony, you must get in touch as quickly as possible with a Syracuse criminal defense attorney.

Petty offenses are the least serious offenses in New York and are not considered crimes. These offenses include disorderly conduct, disturbing the peace, and several traffic violations. A conviction may be penalized with up to fifteen days in jail, a fine, and/or community service.

Misdemeanors are offenses that are considered less severe than felonies. While a felony conviction may lead to a lengthy prison sentence, a misdemeanor may be penalized upon conviction with fifteen days to one year in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000.

How Are Misdemeanors Classified in New York?

Misdemeanors in New York are sorted into three classes:

  1.  Class A misdemeanors: Class A misdemeanors are punishable on conviction with up to one year in jail and/or a fine. Class A misdemeanors include sexual misconduct, petit larceny, forcible touching, resisting arrest, and assault in the third degree.
  2.  Class B misdemeanors: Class B misdemeanors may be penalized on conviction with up to ninety days in jail and/or a fine. Class B misdemeanors include unlawful assembly, prostitution, criminal possession of marijuana, and harassment in the first degree.
  3.  Unclassified misdemeanors: The penalties for convictions for unclassified misdemeanors are spelled out in the specific laws that define each unclassified offense. Unclassified misdemeanors include reckless driving and several other traffic and vehicular offenses.

A misdemeanor conviction does not take away your right to vote, but if the misdemeanor is a “serious offense,” a conviction means that you will lose the right to buy, own, or carry a firearm. If you are charged with a misdemeanor, contact a Syracuse criminal defense lawyer at once.

How Are Felonies Handled in New York State?

The most serious crimes are felonies. Convictions for felonies may be penalized in New York with prison sentences that exceed one year. The most serious felony convictions in this state may be penalized with a life sentence. New York divides felonies into five classes:

  1. Class A felonies: Class A felony convictions are punishable with life sentences. Class A felonies include aggravated murder, first- and second-degree murder, terrorism, first-degree kidnapping, and first-degree arson.
  2. Class B felonies: Class B felonies may be penalized upon conviction with up to twenty-five years in prison. These felonies include sex trafficking, grand larceny in the first degree, assault in the first degree, and witness tampering in the first degree.
  3. Class C felonies: A Class C felony is punishable upon conviction with potentially fifteen years in prison. Class C felonies include second-degree robbery, aggravated criminal possession of a weapon, second-degree burglary, and aggravated vehicular assault.
  4. Class D felonies: Class D felony convictions in New York are penalized with up to seven years in prison. Class D felonies include aggravated identity theft, assault in the second degree, rape in the second degree, and reckless assault of a child.
  5. Class E felonies: Convictions for Class E felonies in this state are punishable with up to four years in prison. Class E felonies include grand larceny in the fourth degree, persistent sexual abuse, and rape in the third degree.

A felony conviction may also result in losing your right to vote, to hold a professional license, or to own or buy a firearm. Both felony and misdemeanor convictions can make it difficult to find employment because most employers conduct criminal background checks before hiring.

Do Defense Attorneys Handle Felonies and Misdemeanors Differently?

You have the same rights whether you are charged and prosecuted for a misdemeanor or for a felony, and the legal rules are essentially the same. In order to convict you of either type of crime, the state must prove that you are guilty of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt.

Of course, much more will be at stake if you are facing a felony charge. The main procedural difference is that misdemeanor cases are handled in a standard and routine manner by the courts and are less likely to involve legal complications, lengthy delays, or surprises.

Because felonies are more complicated and more serious crimes, felony cases raise more legal issues and usually take more time. Because so much is on the line, both sides are more likely to be passionate, and both sides may use every available legal tool in their efforts to prevail.

What Else Should You Know?

The New York criminal justice system can be intimidating. Being charged with even a simple misdemeanor could have drastic consequences. But whether the charge is a misdemeanor or a felony, you must be represented by a Syracuse criminal defense attorney who will prepare the most appropriate, aggressive, and effective defense strategy on your behalf.

The evidence against you may be overwhelming, and your conviction may be inevitable. If this is the case, your attorney may negotiate for a lesser charge in return for reduced or alternative sentencing.

If you’re innocent, and if the charge cannot be dropped or dismissed, insist on your right to a jury trial. At trial, your Syracuse criminal defense lawyer will explain to a jury what actually took place, cast doubt on the state’s evidence, and tell the jurors why they should find you not guilty.

Passalacqua & Associates Fights Aggressively for Every Client

Whether you are charged with a petty offense, a misdemeanor, or a felony, a defense attorney at Passalacqua & Associates will fight for the best possible result in your case. The award-winning team at Passalacqua & Associates has over three decades of criminal defense experience.

We know from that experience what it takes to prevail in a misdemeanor or felony case. If you’re charged with a crime, Passalacqua & Associates will provide a no-cost, in-depth case evaluation with no obligation. It’s your opportunity to obtain personalized legal advice and to learn how New York law applies to your own circumstances.

In the Utica or Syracuse area, if you are charged with any criminal offense – now or in the future – promptly call Passalacqua & Associates at 315-277-3548, and let us bring our experience and legal know-how to your defense.