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What is the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony?

A misdemeanor is a lower level crime for which you can face probation or jail time. A felony is a higher level crime which carries a potential prison sentence.

Misdemeanors:

In Colorado there are 3 classes of misdemeanors.  A class 1 misdemeanor is the highest level misdemeanor and generally carries up to a $5000 fine and up to 18 months in jail.  Some class 1 misdemeanors are considered extraordinary risk crimes and can carry up to 2 years in the county jail.  An example is a charge of third-degree assault, C.R.S. 18-3-204 which carries up to 2 years in the county jail.

A class 2 misdemeanor carries up to a $1000 fine and up to a year in the county jail.

A class 3 misdemeanor carries up to a $750 fine and up to six months in the county jail.

Most of the time, a plea offer will be extended in a criminal case and usually a probation term is offered with no or a limited amount of time in jail.

Depending on the charge, the prosecutor may want you to participate in treatment as part of a resolution in the case.  Treatment can include a Substance Abuse evaluation and follow up treatment, a domestic violence evaluation and treatment, a Mental Health evaluation and treatment, or other terms or conditions that may aid in rehabilitation.

Felonies:

In Colorado, there are six levels of felonies and 4 levels of drug felonies.

Felonies have significant potential penalties that may include prison which is also called the department of corrections (or DOC), community corrections which is a halfway house that allows people to work and be incarcerated at night, jail or probation and treatment.  Felony convictions also have collateral consequences such as prohibiting the possession of firearms.

The highest level felony is a class 1 felony and the lowest level felony is a class 6 felony. Drug felonies have different penalties and include the assessment of additional fees.

A felony conviction can have significant consequences on your freedom and ability to obtain future employment so consulting a criminal defense attorney is highly recommended.

Recommendations:

If you go to court on your own without an attorney, do not make any admissions in your case.  You do not have to make any statements to law enforcement or to the prosecutor and you are always free to indicate that you would like to consult a criminal attorney.

Even before an arrest is made, you do not have to make a statement to law enforcement other than providing your name and basic identifying information.

What strategy does a criminal defense lawyer use for the different levels of charges, i.e. felony v. misdemeanor? Questions and answers:

  1. Does a felony require a more aggressive strategy and what would that look like? Are prosecutors more aggressive with more serious charges? 

Felonies have more serious consequences so we will advise you of those consequences and work to obtain the best outcome in your case.  Prosecutors are often more aggressive with more serious charges, particularly in victim rights cases where the crime has caused serious harm.  We seek to mitigate that harm to help you resolve your case favorably.

  1. If you are charged with a felony, but it’s a non-violent crime (trespassing), does that mean it’s more likely to be dropped to a less serious (M) offense? On the other hand, if you’re charged with a M1, are prosecutors less likely to negotiate because you’ve been given the benefit of a lenient charge by not getting a felony?

Whether charged with a felony or misdemeanor, the nature of the charge and your criminal history influence the prosecution’s handling of the case.  If you have a lengthy criminal history, the offer may be less favorable.

  1. Are you always on the back foot if you’ve been charged with a felony, or is there hope?

Being charged with a crime is not the end of the story. We need to look at the evidence and see if the charges are provable.  Do we have a good defense?  Are the witnesses reliable?  Did law enforcement conduct a good investigation?  Were any of your right violated?  These are all things we look at in evaluating your case.

Please reach out to us to schedule a consultation so we can assist you.

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Jessica
Lasky

Partner - Criminal Defense

Colorado Springs

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