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Felonies vs. Misdemeanors: What’s the Difference?

Felonies vs Misdemeanors What's the Difference

If you are unfamiliar with legal terminology, you may be curious about the distinction between a felony and a misdemeanor. These two terms get used quite often in the context of a crime, but their specific differences are not as widely known.

Crimes can be classified as felonies or misdemeanors, which indicate the severity of a given offense. In Colorado law, misdemeanors are less severe than felony charges and carry lighter consequences. Read on to learn more about the classes of misdemeanors and felonies one can receive in Colorado and their corresponding penalties.

Misdemeanors in Colorado

Colorado has three tiers of crimes: petty offenses, misdemeanors, and felonies. Misdemeanors are the middle tier in terms of severity.

Common misdemeanors include driving under the influence, shoplifting, domestic violence, and vandalism. This category of crimes is divided into three classes, with class 1 misdemeanors being the most severe.

  • Class 1 misdemeanor Colorado punishment: anywhere from 6 to 18 months in jail and/or a fine ranging from $500 to $5,000, unless it’s an extraordinary risk crime
  • Class 2 misdemeanor Colorado punishment: anywhere from 3 to 12 months in jail and/or a fine ranging from $250 to $1000, unless it’s an extraordinary risk crime
  • Class 3 misdemeanor Colorado punishment: up to 6 months in jail and/or a fine of $50 to $750.

For first-time offenders, misdemeanors often don’t get the full amount of jail time. In many cases, you may simply receive a fine or probation.

Your misdemeanor case can be sealed two years after your case closes in Colorado. If your case gets dismissed including after successful completion of a deferred judgment, it will be sealed immediately. However, certain crimes can never be sealed according to Colorado law, including:

If your charge involves firearms or drugs or any crime of “moral turpitude,” there’s a chance that you could face deportation if you are an alien to the United States. Get in touch with misdemeanor criminal defense to avoid this type of conviction. The attorneys at Colorado Lawyer Team work closely with immigration counsel in those situations, too.

Like misdemeanors, felonies are also categorized by class, with class 1 felonies being the most serious and Class 6 felonies being the least serious.

  • Class 1 felonies: Examples include first-degree murder, treason, and kidnapping. These crimes are punishable by life in prison.
  • Class 2 felonies: Examples include second-degree murder, racketeering, and human trafficking. These crimes are punishable by 8-24 years in prison, mandatory parole of three years, and/or $5k-$1M in fines.
  • Class 3 felonies: Examples include first-degree assault, first-degree burglary, and first-degree arson. These crimes are punishable by 4-12 years in prison, mandatory parole of three years, and/or $3k-$750k in fines.
  • Class 4 felonies: Examples include criminal extortion, stalking in violation of a protection order, and property theft between $20k and $100k. These crimes are punishable by 2-6 years in prison, mandatory parole of three years, and/or $2k-$100k in fines.
  • Class 5 felonies: Examples include stalking and forgery. These crimes are punishable by 1-3 years in prison, mandatory parole of two years, and/or $1k-$100k in fines.
  • Class 6 felonies: Examples include impersonating a peace officer and invasion of privacy for sexual gratification. These crimes are punishable by 12-18 months in prison and $1k-$100k worth of fines.

Many ask, “Can a first-time felony be dismissed?”

Diversion is sometimes a possibility, but Colorado does have sentencing enhancers such as Habitual Offender laws. Colorado also has separate classifications for what are known as “Drug Felonies” or “Drug Misdemeanors.” Some Drug Felonies could even “wobble” to become misdemeanors if a defendant is successful in drug treatment.

or a felony or misdemeanor in Colorado?

Confronting misdemeanor or felony charges is stressful and overwhelming, no matter your offense. But you should never navigate the legal process alone. COLaw Team is here to help – contact us today for a free, 30-minute consultation.