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The Difference Between a Felony and a Misdemeanor in Ny

Many states, including New York, separate crimes into two groups; felonies and misdemeanors. The length of the sentence is what determines the difference between a felony and a misdemeanor. Under Article 70 of the New York Penal Law, a felony can have a sentence of a year or more, while a misdemeanor can have a sentence of 15 days to up to one year.


Felonies are broken into five sub-divisions ranging from Class ‘A’ to ‘E’. Class A felonies are the most serious, while class E felonies are the least serious. Felonies are prosecuted by indictment voted on by a grand jury, unless the defendant waves indictment.

If you are convicted of a felony in New York, you may lose many of the rights and privileges that come with being an American citizen.

  • The right to vote
  • The right to purchase firearms
  • The right to sit on a jury
  • The right to welfare
  • The right to Federally funded housing
  • Exclusion from some operator licenses

Class A Felonies

The most serious class of felonies, resulting in lengthy prison sentences. Examples of a Class A felony include first and second-degree murder, arson in the first degree, and kidnapping in the first degree.

Class B Felonies

A Class B violent felony has a sentencing of 5-25 years. Non-violent class B felonies carry a maximum sentence of nine years. Examples of a Class B felony include burglary in the first degreerape in the first degree, criminal possession and/or sale of a controlled substance in the third degree.

Class C Felonies

A Class C violent felony has a sentencing of 3.5 – 15 years. A Class C non-violent felony could result in no jail, probation, or up to 15 years in prison. Examples of a Class C felony include burglary in the second degree, criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree and grand larceny in the second degree.

Class D Felonies

A Class D violent felony has a sentencing of 2-7 years. A Class D non-violent felony could result in no jail, probation, or up to 7 years in prison. Examples of a Class D felony include assault in the second degree, robbery in the 3rd degree, forgery in the second degree, reckless endangerment in the first degree and felony DWI (3 in 10).

Class E Felonies

A Class E felony could result in no jail, probation, or up to 4 years in prison. Examples of Class E felonies include felony DWI (2 in 10), criminal contempt in the first degree, grand larceny in the 4th degree and criminal mischief in the 3rd degree.

It’s important to note that the above classifications are guidelines. Many factors are involved in sentencing, such as convictions, non-violent predicate, violent predicate, repeat offense, and more.


Similar to felonies, misdemeanors are broken in to sub-divisions; A, B, and unclassified. Misdemeanors may also come with fines

What is a Class A Misdemeanor?

A Class A misdemeanor is punishable by up to one year in jail and is the most severe misdemeanor crimes. Class A misdemeanors include petit larceny, resisting arrest, and criminal possession of a controlled substance in the 7th degree.

Class B Misdemeanors

A Class B misdemeanor is punishable by up to 90 days in jail. Class B misdemeanors include prostitution, harassment in the 1st degree, and unlawful assembly.

Unclassified Misdemeanors

Penalties for unclassified misdemeanors are detailed in the specific laws defining each offense. First-time driving while intoxicated, aggravated unlicensed driving, and reckless driving are all unclassified misdemeanors.

If you’ve been charged with a felony or misdemeanor,  contact us today. Having a felony on your record could impact you for the rest of your life. The lawyers at McCabe Coleman Ventosa & Patterson PLLC are prepared to view your case and work to achieve the best outcome possible for you.