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Differences Between Felonies and Misdemeanors in Michigan

Whether a defendant is charged with a felony or misdemeanor depends on numerous factors.

Posted 4 years ago by Jim Titus

If you’ve been charged with a crime you may be wondering why it’s considered either a felony or misdemeanor. Obviously felonies are typically worse crimes with stiffer punishments, but did you know you could be charged with either a felony or misdemeanor for the same crime? Here’s more about the differences between felonies and misdemeanors in Michigan.

Jail or Prison?

Although people outside of the criminal justice system often interchange the terms “jail” and “prison,” they are actually two different places. A person who is charged with a misdemeanor crime in Michigan will be kept in jail for one year or less. A prison sentence, on the other hand, is almost always for at least a year. Some serious felony convictions lead to life in prison, not jail.

Felony or Misdemeanor?

The difference between a felony and misdemeanor isn't always black and white.Sometimes it’s clear what type of crime warrants either a felony or misdemeanor charge, such as in the case of first-degree murder.

With other crimes, the determination as to whether the person receives a felony or misdemeanor charge isn’t always as black and white.

For example, if a person is charged with embezzlement, the value or the amount of money will determine if the defendant is charged with a misdemeanor or felony. Typically if the value is $1,000 or more, the crime is considered a felony. Likewise, a first offense DUI could lead to misdemeanor charge, but a third offense is almost always considered a felony.

Felony examples:

  • First- and second-degree murder
  • Assault with a deadly weapon with intent to rob or steal
  • Kidnapping
  • Criminal sexual conduct in the first degree
  • Arson
  • Second-degree child abuse
  • Production of child sexually abusive material (child pornography)
  • Manslaughter
  • Human trafficking that results in injury
  • Robbery
  • Larceny (depending on dollar amount and number of offenses)
  • Embezzlement (depending on dollar amount)
  • Carrying a firearm or dangerous weapon with unlawful intent
  • Home invasion
  • First-degree retail fraud
  • Unauthorized loan and credit application
  • Writing a bad check greater than $500
  • Domestic assault (second or subsequent conviction)
  • Using a state identification card to commit a felony
  • False representation to obtain or misuse personal information

Misdemeanor examples:

  • Domestic violence
  • Trespassing
  • Larceny
  • Resisting arrest
  • Disturbing the peace
  • Assault and battery
  • Aggravated assault
  • Prostitution
  • Reckless driving
  • Disorderly conduct
  • Indecent exposure
  • Leaving the scene of an accident
  • Negligent homicide
  • Possession of marijuana
  • Domestic violence
  • Driving with a suspended license

If you’ve been charged with either a felony or misdemeanor, make sure you find legal counsel to help you navigate the judicial system. It’s a complicated process, and the right attorney can help lessen the consequences regardless of the charge.


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