When dealing with criminal defense situations, understanding the difference between felonies and misdemeanors is critical. The difference in how crimes are classified makes an enormous difference in the consequences you might face if you are convicted.
Every state has some laws defining whether crimes are felonies or misdemeanors. Different states also have varying classifications of felonies, which can range in severity and be linked to varying levels of sentences. Across the nation, the basic definition of a felony is that it is a criminal charge that can be punished by a sentence of over a year in jail or prison. Misdemeanors usually have sentences of less than a year or sentences that don't involve any jail time.
Since misdemeanors often come with only fines or probation periods, particularly when someone has not been convicted of a crime before, it is desirable for many defendants to face misdemeanor charges rather than felony charges. If you and your defense attorney believe that defeating charges completely is not a viable option, then negotiating with prosecutors to reduce the charges might be the best way to protect your future.
Understanding when to fight charges directly and when to negotiate is an important legal skill. Negotiate when you don't have to and you could be convicted when you are innocent and can prove it. Go to court when the case is heavily stacked against you and you could be convicted and face long sentences when you could have negotiated for shorter ones.
Making decisions about negotiating for lesser charges can be difficult because so much is on the line. Working with someone who is experienced in criminal defense matters can help you make the best decision and provide some peace of mind.
Source: Enlighten Me, "What Are Felony Classes?," accessed July 24, 2015