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Difference between Felony and Misdemeanor charges in New York

  Felony and Misdemeanor charges are both criminal offenses.  Misdemeanor is a criminal offense where a person charged faces up to 1 year in jail, in addition, to other penalties such as fines, surcharges, etc. Felony is a criminal offense where a person charged faces over 1 year in prison, in addition to other penalties such as fines, surcharges, etc. While this difference in jail time seems easy to understand, in practice, felony and misdemeanor have many other factors that differentiate them. New York State Constitution requires District Attorney’s Offices (Prosecution) to present cases to Grand Jury when a person is charged with a felony in New York State unless the accused waives this right in court before a judge. Grand Jury is a group of people that hear evidence presented by the prosecution.  This group of people is selected at random from a community where the alleged crime occurred.  A person accused of a felony can only be tried if Grand Jury determined that there is sufficient evidence to proceed with the case after an arrest. In other words, it is the Grand Jury that stands between the person accused of a felony and government prosecution.  When a person is charged with a felony, (s)he has a constitutional right to testify before the Grand Jury. Felony convictions carry a much higher range of sentencing, and therefore, the NYS legislature afforded more protection to people charged with felonies. For example, when a police officer charges a person with a felony based on its investigation, a grand jury will review presented evidence, such as the police officer’s and other witnesses’ testimonies, to determine if there was indeed enough evidence to charge this person with a felony.  In addition, when charged with a felony, an accused has a constitutional right to offer their own testimony in the grand jury, and, if believed, the grand jury may dismiss the indictment.

However, if a grand jury does not believe the accused, but instead finds the presented evidence credible, the grand jury will confirm the charges and a felony complaint that was filed to support an arrest will transform into a grand jury indictment. Moreover, a Grand Jury has the power to add charges (if the prosecution offers them to do so), as well as to lower the charges, i.e., indict on a lesser charge, if they don’t fully accept the presented evidence. As noted earlier, the Grand Jury has the power to completely dismiss the charges thus bringing a criminal matter to an end.  In contrast to a felony, a misdemeanor charge does not lead to a Grand Jury.  In a misdemeanor prosecution, it is the complainant (usually called a complaining witness, or, a victim; it can also be an arresting police officer) who must sign a supporting deposition for the prosecution to move forward towards the trial.  The prosecution must obtain a signed supporting deposition from a complaining witness and convert the case within 90 days of the defendant’s arraignment, otherwise the case will be dismissed.

If you have an open criminal matter (felony and misdemeanor charges) and you are not clear what is going on with your case, you can always contact New York Criminal Defense Attorneys – Felony and Misdemeanor Charges Attorneys – Sharifov & Associates, PLLC for a consultation. We will analyze your case, discuss your best defenses and possible outcomes and explain the process to you. You can also contact us if you need a second opinion from experienced criminal defense attorneys in New York – Sharifov & Associates, PLLC – Felony and Misdemeanor charges attorneys.