When it comes to misdemeanors, although they are not felonies, they should still be taken seriously. Those charged with misdemeanors can not only go to jail, but face hefty fines. Depending on the particular nature of the crime, these charges can adversely impact not only one's family life, but one's career.
That being said, misdemeanors, while handled in a different courthouse, are processed through the legal system in much the same way as a felonies. The defendant is still perceived to be innocent until proven guilty and a prosecutor still shoulders the burden of proving the defendant's guilt.
While being arrested and booked will undoubtedly earn the defendant an arrest record, it's not considered the same as a criminal record. Instead, either an agreement to a plea bargain or conviction must be secured for that to occur.
The amount of time one could expect to spend in jail if convicted is the distinguishing factor that sets the two types of crimes apart. While misdemeanors generally do not carry sentences of more than a year, felonies can carry anywhere between one year and life imprisonment or the death penalty.
Also, the two crimes differ when it comes to where sentences are served. Those convicted of felonies serve out their time in state-run prisons whereas those convicted of misdemeanors serve their time in county jails.
Another distinguishing factor is fines assessed. Even if jail time is avoided in a case, fines and court costs can quickly mount with the highest fines being associated with felony charges.
There are situations in which an individual is arrested, but ultimately not convicted. In those cases, a defendant can petition the judge to have either the record of one's arrest and/or charges expunged.
Those who were convicted and served their sentence, provided they've served all the necessary probation time and paid their fines and fees, can also request the judge to expunge the conviction. That being said, it's important to note that expungements are generally granted only once in a lifetime.
If you or someone you know has been charged with a traffic violation, shoplifting, assault, or some other type misdemeanor, the counsel of a North Carolina criminal defense attorney can provide you with the necessary insight to protect your rights.