What’s the difference between a Felony and a Misdemeanor?


  • What is the difference between a Felony and Misdemeanor?
  • Do they carry different punishments?
  • Is there any way to go from Felony to Misdemeanor?


Traditionally the difference between a felony and misdemeanor was defined by how much time you could get in prison.  While that is still somewhat true today, the laws regarding both are complicated – John Fanney 



What is a Felony in North Carolina?  How is it different than a Misdemeanor? 

Before going any further, realize this:  All criminal charges are serious and should be taken seriously.

And while there are important differences between felonies and misdemeanors, it really is important you talk to a Raleigh Criminal Defense Lawyer if you’re charged with either in Wake County.

Because North Carolina was one of the first thirteen colonies in the United States, we have some interesting laws that come from, at least in part, Great Britain.

Those laws, which are said to have been “commonly known,” are often times referred to by criminal defense lawyers are Common Law offenses.

North Carolina still recognizes the Common Law in many instances.  There also are laws put on the books by the North Carolina General Assembly.



Sometimes those “statutory laws” add to, supplement, and even replace certain aspects of the Common Law.

Under the Common Law, normally a Felony was defined as any type of offense where you could go to prison for one year or more.

That has changed quite a bit in North Carolina, especially if you consider the fact that there are now some offenses that are defined as misdemeanors than can carry more than a year in prison.


MORE INFO: What Is The Difference Between Civil And Criminal Court?


And on the other side of the coin, there are some Felony offenses in North Carolina that carry with them either no real chance of jail or prison time, at least if you have a perfect record.

Normally those types of felonies would be called “low level offenses,” as they are specifically defined in the North Carolina General Statutes.

Historically, there were probably more offenses punishable by a year or more than nowadays.  Things were a bit more harsh in the criminal justice system as a whole back then.

That level of harshness did not escape North Carolina, where there not only were lots of offenses that were deemed “felonies,” but there were more offenses that could be punished by death or by extremely long prison terms.



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Modified Transcript of “What’s the difference between a Felony and a Misdemeanor? ” for the Hearing Impaired


The difference between a felony and a misdemeanor crime comes down to the type of offense that’s been committed, how severe the damage is to another person or to the public at large or to the state of North Carolina.

Felony offenses include murder, manslaughter, rape, armed robbery, sex offenses involving children or underage individuals, breaking and entering, burglary, arson, armed robbery, serious assaults, assault inflicting serious injury, assault with a deadly weapon, and assault with intent to kill.

Misdemeanor offenses can include things like simple possession of marijuana, underage drinking, shoplifting, possession of other drugs.

Depends on how many you have.

Some offenses can be both misdemeanors and felonies, depending on the amounts involved.

Larcenies or thefts under a certain amount are a misdemeanor. If they’re over another amount, they become a felony.

Drugs, you may have one or two small prescription pills, they could be a misdemeanor. If you have over a certain amount, it could be a felony.

I handle these types of cases in Wake County every day. I have a law office in Raleigh.

I’m in the court for Wake County every single day. I’m John Fanney.

I’m a board-certified specialist in state criminal defense law by the North Carolina State Bar.

I’d like you to give me a call, (919)617-7009.


John Fanney Attorney At Law – Raleigh, North Carolina