Licensed to Practice in Colorado and the United States District Court for the District of Colorado

Felony vs misdemeanor charges and convictions

On Behalf of | Feb 27, 2023 | Criminal Defense

Many individuals never experience the criminal justice system. Therefore, they may not know the severity of different types of charges.

There are three major categories of crimes: felonies, misdemeanors and infractions. These are the differences between them.

Felony charges

Felony crimes are the highest-level crimes, and they significantly impact public safety. However, not all felony crimes are violent. For example, these crimes include murder, rape, kidnapping, sexual battery, carjacking, robbery and illegal drug possession with the intent to sell.

Those convicted of a felony typically receive prison sentences that last from one year to a lifetime, depending on the crime. Felonies have classes, from A to E, that determine the length of the offender’s prison sentence.

Misdemeanor charges

These charges tend to be nonviolent, and they are much less severe than felony charges. This means that they have a lesser impact on the general public. Common misdemeanor charges in Colorado include indecent exposure, mischief, domestic violence, minor drug crimes, vandalism, DUI and shoplifting.

Those convicted of a misdemeanor typically receive no jail time. However, the judge can rule that these individuals spend up to one year in a local jail. However, they are unlikely to go to federal prisons. Plea bargains are common in these cases because prosecutors have more flexibility in their charges.


Infractions are minor crimes, such as traffic violations, littering, trespassing and disturbing the peace. They typically have no jail time and may not even involve the courts. Individuals who are guilty of minor infractions typically pay fines.

If they are over 18 years of age, misdemeanor and felony convictions become part of these individuals’ permanent records, which may impact future education and job opportunities among other consequences. However, expungements are available in some cases.