There are several differences between being convicted on a misdemeanor charge and a felony charge in New York state. A misdemeanor is assuredly a less serious criminal matter. A felony conviction establishes the status of being a convicted felon, and subsequent felony convictions can result in enhanced charge levels and harsher penalties. Felony convictions can ruin lives, but misdemeanor convictions can be lived down to some degree as long as the criminal behavior ceases. The type of court can matter too, as federal charges are much more serious. Additionally, the parole system is much different.
One major difference between misdemeanors and felonies is the amount of potential fine a misdemeanor conviction can carry. Different charge convictions allow for different fine amounts, sometimes as high as $1000. The most jail time a misdemeanor conviction can carry is one year, or 11 months and 29 days to be exact. One year incarceration is the minimum for the lowest level felony in New York or in federal court. Where trouble ensues for many misdemeanor defendants is when they are charged with driving under the influence and involved in an accident. In this case, the criminal defense argument could be a felony defense.
Being convicted on a felony charge is a watershed moment for many defendants, and especially when it is a higher criminal classification. The state of New York is serious about prosecuting felonies, and there are multiple levels ranging from A to E classification. Felony charges are the most serious cases that New York criminal defense attorneys handle because the outcome can be drastic based on material evidence being used by the prosecution. Incarceration can range from one year for a Class E conviction to life for a Class A felony conviction. Additionally, fines can be exponential compared to misdemeanor fines.
It is also important to note that federal charges can be classified as misdemeanor or felony as well. The primary difference when facing federal charges is that the sentencing guidelines are much different, and convicted defendants must serve a significant portion of any assigned jail sentence.