Felonies vs. Misdemeanors

September 20, 2013

There are two basic types of crimes: felonies and misdemeanors.

In Wisconsin, a felony is a crime that could result in imprisonment in the Wisconsin State Prison System, which could potentially result in incarceration of one year or more.

A misdemeanor in Wisconsin is any crime not punishable by imprisonment in the Wisconsin State Prison System, but may result in incarceration in a county jail.

Felonies in Wisconsin are classified as Class A, Class B, Class C, and so on to Class I. A Class A felony is punishable by life imprisonment. A Class I felony is punishable by imprisonment not to exceed 3 ½ years, and a fine not to exceed $10,000 or both.

Misdemeanors are classified as Class A, Class B and Class C misdemeanors. A Class A misdemeanor can result in a fine up to $10,000 and/or imprisonment up to 9 months. A Class C misdemeanor is punishable by a fine up to $500 and/or imprisonment up to 30 days.

Advice: If you have a “clean record” it is essential you make every effort to protect that “clean record.” Whether you are charged with a misdemeanor or felony, avoiding your “first conviction” is essential. Too many people make the mistake of pleading “no contest” the first time they are charged with a crime. That is a huge mistake. Whether charged with a felony or misdemeanor, you should definitely hire an attorney and make every effort to avoid allowing a conviction on your record.

Depending on the charge, a state or federal misdemeanor or federal felony conviction may have the following consequences:

  • Loss of passport eligibility (drug offenses)
  • Prohibited entry into Canada, Mexico, and other countries
  • Loss of right to vote, hold public office, serve on a jury (felony)
  • Loss of your right to bear arms – including hunting privileges (felonies and some misdemeanors)
  • Loss of license/ineligibility for licenses issues by the Wisconsin Department of Licensing and Regulation, including, for example, a child care license, nursing license, EMT license, appraiser, real estate broker, veterinarian tech, etc.
  • Seizure of your car, cell phone, rifle, handgun or other items used in the commission of the crime
  • Exclusion from public housing
  • Loss of Medicaid and food stamps eligibility
  • Sex offender registration and exclusion from some residential housing

Whether charged with a felony or misdemeanor, you must have effective representation. Keeping the first conviction off of your record is of the utmost importance.

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For more information about "Felonies vs. Misdemeanors," contact John Walsh at jwalsh@axley.com or 608.283.6709.