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The Differences between Misdemeanors and Felonies

Differences between misdemeanors and felonies

In most states, misdemeanors and felonies are the two ways to classify a crime. Some states use a third: petty offenses—otherwise known as infractions. The two major classifications can get confusing, and it can be easy to blur the line between the two. To help you make heads or tails of your predicament, here’s a quick breakdown of the key differences between misdemeanors and felonies.

The Differences Between Misdemeanors and Felonies


Misdemeanors are less serious than felonies and usually result in substantial fines and, in some cases, jail time. Oregon splits misdemeanor offenses into four different categories: Class A, B, C, and unclassified. Class A convictions are the most serious, while unclassified convictions are the least serious. Fines in Oregon are up to $6,250, and jail time is up to one year.

If you must serve jail time for a misdemeanor, you will most likely do so in a local or county jail—this is the same across the country. Some people consider this a blessing in disguise since they are closer to family; others consider it a curse since life in jail is less structured, more chaotic, and more brutal than prison. Here’s a quick look at the different crimes that connect with the different classes.

Class A Crimes:

  • Obstructing judicial administration
  • First-degree disorderly conduct: fighting, protests, disturbing an assembly, public misconduct
  • Contributing to the sexual delinquency of a minor
  • Reckless driving: drinking and driving, texting and driving

Class B Crimes:

  • Tampering with cable television equipment
  • Unlawful sound recording
  • Harassment: cyberbullying, stalking, hate crimes

Class C Crimes:

  • Encouraging animal abuse
  • Sexual misconduct
  • Criminal trespassing at a sports event


  • Drinking in public
  • Pointing a firearm at another

If you face charges related to the aforementioned crimes, whether it be drunk driving or disorderly conduct, it is important to seek help from a criminal defense attorney. This is important because, according to PBS, “In the most populous counties, 71 percent of publicly defended clients were incarcerated compared to 54 percent represented by private counsel.” Don’t go into the court room alone—there are people who will help you in this time of need.


Felonies are far more serious than misdemeanors. But, with that said, not all felony convictions result in time behind bars. However, they do have the possibility to result in long prison sentence times—a year is on the low end—and can even mean life in prison without parole, or even death. In Oregon the most serious felonies, unclassified felonies, could mean death or life imprisonment.

For third-time, and sometimes second-time offenders, misdemeanors can be elevated to felonies. One of the main differences between misdemeanors and felonies is that unclassified convictions for misdemeanor are the least serious; for felonies, they are the most serious. Class A felony fines can reach up to $375,000, but unclassified convictions can be around $500,000.  Here are just some examples of the type of crimes that fall under each level.


  • Murder
  • Aggravated Murder

Class A Crimes:

  • First-degree rape
  • First-degree manslaughter
  • First-degree assault

Class B Crimes:

  • First-degree aggravated theft
  • Laundering a monetary instrument
  • First-degree abuse of a corpse

Class C Crimes:

  • Second-degree burglary
  • Third-degree robbery
  • Promoting prostitution

If you face felony charges in Oregon, you potentially face massive fines and a long prison sentence. Speak with a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.

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