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What’s the Difference Between Felonies and Misdemeanors?

Securing a strong criminal defense begins with understanding infractions and the charges levied by the state. Accused individuals may not be aware of the crime and penalties they’ll face in court until it’s too late to mount a strong defense. The basics of the legal system begin with the charges one could face in criminal court. Understanding terms like felony, misdemeanor, and contempt of court can do a great deal to help individuals before they head into court.

In Idaho, the state’s legal code defines the charges of felony, misdemeanor, and infractions within Title 18, Chapter 1.

TITLE 18; CHAPTER 1; 18-111. FELONY, MISDEMEANOR, AND INFRACTION DEFINED. A felony is a crime that is punishable with death or by imprisonment in the state prison. An infraction is a civil public offense, not constituting a crime, which is punishable only by a penalty not exceeding three hundred dollars ($300) and for which no period of incarceration may be imposed. Every other crime is a misdemeanor. When a crime punishable by imprisonment in the state prison is also punishable by fine or imprisonment in county jail, in the discretion of the court, it shall be deemed a misdemeanor for all purposes after a judgment imposing a punishment other than imprisonment in the state prison.

Felonies charges are generally reserved for more serious crimes and carry more severe penalties or fines. Felonies penalties can range from the death penalty to incarceration in state prison. Misdemeanors are typically used for crimes with fewer years of incarceration and time spent in jail rather than prison. The rules and specifics range depending on the crime class and discretion of the court.

What are the differences between misdemeanor and felony charges?

In Idaho, there are three types of charges:

  • Infractions: These charges are not crimes but rather civil public offenses. They do not carry any jail time, and they can be resolved by paying a fine of $300 or less. The state legal code sets fines for infractions, and the court cannot change them. Because infractions aren’t crimes, individuals cannot be arrested or plead guilty to one. If a person is charged with an infraction, they can either accept or deny and pay the penalty or set a date for a bench trial. Some speeding charges, pet responsibility regulations, and driving rules fall under infractions instead of misdemeanors.
  • Misdemeanors: These charges are punishable by incarceration in the county jail for six months or less. Misdemeanors also carry $1000 or less in fines, and both incarceration and fines can be used as punishment. Misdemeanors are less serious than a felony but more severe than an infraction. Misdemeanors can range from dangerous driving to minor theft charges, like petit theft.
  • Felonies: A felony is the most severe criminal charge in Idaho, and felonies are punishable by death or incarceration in state prison. Felony charges can be charged initially or occur when a misdemeanor is enhanced to a more serious crime. Unlike other charges, felonies have lasting consequences that can impact an individual’s future in society. Loss of voting rights, gun rights, and public service roles are restricted for those with felony convictions until a period of parole or probation has been satisfied. Some felonies lead to permanent loss of gun rights, which can be found in Idaho Code 18-310.

The list of felony crimes found in Idaho Code 18-310 include:

  • Aggravated assault (18-905, 18-915, Idaho Code);
  • Aggravated battery (18-907, 18-915, Idaho Code);
  • Assault with intent to commit a serious felony (18-909, 18-915, Idaho Code);
  • Battery with intent to commit a serious felony (18-911, 18-915, Idaho Code);
  • Burglary (18-1401, Idaho Code);
  • Crime against nature (18-6605, Idaho Code);
  • Domestic battery, felony (18-918, Idaho Code);
  • Enticing of children, felony (18-1509, Idaho Code);
  • Forcible sexual penetration by use of a foreign object (18-6608, Idaho Code);
  • Indecent exposure, felony (18-4116, Idaho Code);
  • Injury to a child, felony (18-1501, Idaho Code);
  • Intimidating a witness, felony (18-2604, Idaho Code);
  • Lewd conduct with a minor or child under sixteen (18-1508, Idaho Code);
  • Sexual abuse of a child under sixteen (18-1506, Idaho Code);
  • Sexual exploitation of a child (18-1507, Idaho Code);
  • Felonious rescuing prisoners (18-2501, Idaho Code);
  • Escape by one charged with, convicted of, or on probation for a felony (18-2505, Idaho Code);
  • Unlawful possession of a firearm (18-3316, Idaho Code);
  • Degrees of murder (18-4003, Idaho Code);
  • Voluntary manslaughter (18-4006(1), Idaho Code);
  • Assault with intent to murder (18-4015, Idaho Code);
  • Administering poison with intent to kill (18-4014, Idaho Code);
  • Kidnapping (18-4501, Idaho Code);
  • Mayhem (18-5001, Idaho Code);
  • Rape (18-6101, Idaho Code);
  • Robbery (18-6501, Idaho Code);
  • Ritualized abuse of a child (18-1506A, Idaho Code);
  • Cannibalism (18-5003, Idaho Code);
  • Felonious manufacture, delivery or possession with the intent to manufacture or deliver, or possession of a controlled or counterfeit substance (37-2732, Idaho Code);
  • Trafficking (37-2732B, Idaho Code);
  • Threats against state officials of the executive, legislative or judicial branch, felony (18-1353A, Idaho Code);
  • Unlawful discharge of a firearm at a dwelling house, occupied building, vehicle, or mobile home (18-3317, Idaho Code);
  • Unlawful possession of destructive devices (18-3319, Idaho Code);
  • Unlawful use of destructive device or bomb (18-3320, Idaho Code);
  • Attempt (18-306, Idaho Code), conspiracy (18-1701, Idaho Code), or solicitation (18-2001, Idaho Code), to commit any of the crimes described in paragraphs (a) through (hh) of this subsection.

Being found guilty of a crime in Idaho Code 18-310 means permanent loss of the right to possess a firearm.

Do You Need a Lawyer?

Are you facing criminal charges? If you are, it can be difficult to know how to proceed. Many accused parties realize the severity of the charges they are facing too late. Don’t wait until it’s too late to mount a defense in your case. Being convicted of a serious crime can leave your life forever changed. The criminal defense attorneys at May, Rammell & Wells have more than 70 years of collective experience, and they can help you begin strategizing a defense for your case. Call us today at (208) 623-8021 to schedule a consultation.

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