Most common misdemeanors and felonies charges that can take you to jail

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Crime may not be on your mind, but it’s a good idea to stay updated on what can happen if you do commit a crime. Sometimes it happens by accident, sometimes because you’ve been stressed.

Either way, the United States law will define your crime and punishment.

By the federal criminal code, crimes can be divided into two separate categories. One is the misdemeanor category, the other is the felony category.

You may wonder what’s the difference between the two. The answer is simple – the difference is in the maximum punishment you can receive for either one, as you can see here. For a misdemeanor, the maximum charges can be up to a year of jail time. For a felony, you could go to prison for more than 12 months.

While the difference may not seem that severe, it is when it comes to different examples. The law is not always easy to understand – there are different levels of severity. For example, depending on the level of severity, a misdemeanor can be raised to a felony.

Need to know more? Here are some details:


This is a good example of how a single category could have different severity levels. This is a general crime called assault. In case you threaten to harm another human being but don’t actually follow through, this case could be called a misdemeanor. It comes with jail time anywhere from six months to a year, depending on how much you threaten someone.

If you actually go ahead and hurt a person, cause them a body injury or harm them with a weapon – whether a gun or a knife or any object – this becomes a felony. In this case, you could spend anywhere from a year to 25 years in prison.

Peace Disturbance

This is a common charge which comes in many different forms. For example, you could be fighting in a public place, you could be mobilizing an assembly which hasn’t been reported to the authorities or you could be bullying other people.

This is usually classified as a misdemeanor where felony cases are extremely rare. However, it can be raised to a felony depending on your state and what the crime was actually like. More serious cases are usually a cause for the crime to be raised to a felony. Jail time varies as well, the maximum punishment being a year in jail.


If you commit a crime related to drugs, this can also be classified as a felony or a misdemeanor. A misdemeanor is usually when you just possess a drug. However, things can advance quickly when you possess quantities larger than those you could consume yourself or you are caught with intent to sell them.

The quantity itself would vary from state to state. For example, if you live in California, a year in jail would be a normal punishment if you just possess drugs whereas you could spend many years in prison when caught trying to sell drugs. Possession of drugs also involves multiple fines.


This crime also varies in severity. Usually, it depends on the amount of money or things you take. In general, theft is defined as taking property from another human being without their consent.

However, theft as a misdemeanor means taking a smaller amount of money or property while a felony means taking larger amounts of stuff or money from them. In many states, petty theft is a misdemeanor if the value of things taken doesn’t go above $500 while anything more than that is a felony. For a misdemeanor, you could get up to a year of jail time while you could get more for more serious theft.

Theft that is classified as a felony is also called larceny.

In this case, felonies are also placed in different categories. For example, there is grand larceny which means that you stole more than $1000 worth of stuff or money. There’s also grand theft auto which means that someone stole a car.

Indecent Exposure

Crimes can also be separated into different categories based on who they were committed against. Indecent exposure is one of those crimes. Exposing yourself in public – this means exposing your private parts – in a way that disturbs other people is a misdemeanor.

This rises to a felony if committed before a child. There are different age limits here as well that set the line between a misdemeanor and a felony. In some states, exposing yourself to a child can label you as a sex offender for life.

Traffic Violations

This is another common crime and usually, it’s classified as a misdemeanor. For example, a misdemeanor can be speeding, driving without insurance, DUI, driving without a license, etc.

A felony traffic violation is when you commit vehicular homicide or when you leave a scene of an accident. For this, the punishment varies based on the severity and intent – you could get anywhere from a year to life in jail.

A misdemeanor can be raised to a felony in case you commit multiple DUIs and you could get a larger punishment.

Jail Time

As mentioned, the biggest difference between a misdemeanor and a felony is the amount of prison time you can get for either one. Felonies can be diversified into different categories based on the severity of the crime. And according to that, the punishment can be anywhere from one year to life. You can learn more about crime classifications here:

Here are some of the more severe felonies:

  • Rape
  • Kidnapping
  • Murder
  • Selling illegal drugs
  • Arson
  • Grand theft

Some of these are class E or F like theft but some are classified as Class A crimes which could mean the punishment can be a life sentence or death penalty. This is usually murder or first-degree homicide with intention.

Traffic violations, petty theft, trespassing and so on are misdemeanors that come with maximum jail time of 6 months to a year, depending on the state. Of course, you can get help from bail bondsmen through sites like Bail Bonds National Online to avoid jail time. Fines are also limited to between $1000 to $2000.

Murder, rape, kidnapping, and arson are much more serious, and they usually mean more than a year in prison with much more serious terms of incarceration. Class A, as mentioned, comes with a life sentence or the death penalty.