Difference Between a Felony and a Misdemeanor in Utah (2023)

Difference Between a Felony and a Misdemeanor in Utah (1)

There are differences between felonies and misdemeanors in Utah. If law enforcement believes you have committed a crime; then either the district attorney, city prosecutor, or attorney general’s office will usually charge you with either a misdemeanor or a felony, or maybe even multiple crimes. They both may mean time in jail or prison. You may also be found guilty of an infraction, such as driving through a red light, but that is punishable only by a fine, up to $1,000.


A misdemeanor, which is the lesser of the two main types of crimes in Utah, results in shorter punishment time. If you are punished for a misdemeanor, you may go to jail for as long as one year. For a class a misdemeanor, such as theft, but you won’t be sent to prison. You may also be charged as much as $2,500.For a class B misdemeanor, such as drug possession, the punishment may be six months in jail and a fine up to $1,000.A class C conviction, such as being drunk and disorderly, may get you as long as 90 days in jail and a fine up to $750.


Utah judges a felony to be the major crime, which may include burglary, rape, kidnapping, sale id illegal drugs or theft. The punishment ranges from life in prison without parole for what is called a capital crime such as murder; to first degree, which may mean five years to life; second degree, with a prison term of 1-15 years; or third degree, punishable by as much as five years in prison. Many factors enter into a judgment of felony or misdemeanor and the degree of each in the State of Utah. If you have been charged with either crime in any degree, make that call to Howard Lewis & Petersen. We are proven Provo Utah Attorneys. Don’t try to fight a charge of felony or misdemeanor alone. For such a charge in Utah, you need the best defense. That is what we do. Call a Provo criminal law attorney because we can help.


The main difference between felonies and misdemeanors are the severity of the punishment attached. A felony is a more serious type of crime than a misdemeanor, and thus carries a more severe punishment.
Utah has adopted certain statutes that provide whether a crime is a felony or a misdemeanor. These statutes together are called the “Utah Code.”


A felony is any kind of criminal violation that allows for a defendant to be sent to prison for more than one year. It is considered as more severe type of crime with severe imprisonment.

Felonies are classified into the four categories listed below. The most serious kind of felony is a capital felony, and the least severe kind of felony is a 3rd degree felony. For each felony, there is a default prison sentence; however, the respective criminal statute may provide for something more or less severe.
• Capital Felony. A capital felony is a felony in which the death penalty is sought as punishment for the crime.
• First Degree Felony. A first degree felony carries a prison term of 5 years to life plus up to a $10,000 fine.
• Second Degree Felony. A second degree felony carries a prison term of 1 – 15 years plus up to a $10,000 fine.
• Third Degree Felony. A third degree felony carries a prison term of less than 5 years plus up to a $5,000 fine.


Misdemeanors are classified into three categories with each bearing a sentence for an indeterminate term that does not exceed one year. The most severe type of misdemeanor is a Class a misdemeanor and the least severe type of misdemeanor is a Class C misdemeanor. Unlike felonies where a defendant is usually sentenced to prison, individuals convicted of misdemeanors will typically serve jail time, if they serve any time at all.
 Class A Misdemeanor. An individual convicted of a Class A misdemeanor will not be sent to prison (unless they are also convicted of other crimes), but they will be committed to a jail or other holding facility in the town, city, or county where the individual was convicted. Class A misdemeanors also carry a fine up of up to $2,500.
 Class B Misdemeanor. Possible incarceration and a fine of up to $1,000.
 Class C misdemeanors. A fine of up to $750.

How does a person know whether an alleged crime is a felony or a misdemeanor?

It will list the information in the charging document. The charging document will be called an “information” or a “citation” or something similar to that. It is a good idea to call a lawyer that does criminal defense work to ask these types of questions. They can guide you to know the next steps you should take.

Examples of Misdemeanors versus Felonies

In the United States federal criminal code, crimes are divided into two broad categories: misdemeanors and felonies. The distinction here is one of maximum punishment; misdemeanors are crimes that carry a maximum of twelve months incarceration (jail time) and felonies are those crimes that have punishments in excess of twelve months incarceration. A crime can have the same general classification but be broken down into several levels of severity, some of which may raise the seriousness from a misdemeanor to a felony.


A good example of multiple levels of severity is the general class of crime referred to as assault. In the case of assault, threatening to cause harm to a person but not carrying through on the threat would be classified as a misdemeanor. Assault that resulted in actual body injury, or in which a weapon was used as part of the assault, will be considered a felony.


Theft is another example of a crime that has differing levels of severity. Petty theft is the unlawful taking of property or money from another person without their consent. The distinction between whether theft is a misdemeanor or a felony is dependent on the value of the cash or property stolen. Many states consider theft of up to $500 a misdemeanor and larger amounts to be a felony. Felony theft is often referred to as larceny.

Indecent Exposure

Other crimes are distinguished as being misdemeanors or felonies depending on whom the crime is committed against. The crime of indecent exposure falls into this category. Exposing one’s private parts in public in such a way as to alarm others is considered to be a misdemeanor. However, if the exposure is before a child, then the crime rises to the level of a felony. Different states set different age limits as to where the line exists between misdemeanor and felony indecent exposure.

Traffic Violations

In most instances, traffic violations are classified as misdemeanors. Examples of misdemeanor traffic violations include:
• Speeding
• Driving without a license
• Driving without insurance
• Driving under the influence (DUI)
Felony traffic violations include: leaving the scene of an accident and vehicular homicide.
Another potential felony traffic infraction is repeated DUI’s. In this case, many states upgrade repeated charges of DUI from misdemeanor to felony status. While the criminal act being committed is the same, multiple violations can result in a felony charge that carries harsher punishments.

Jail Time for Misdemeanors versus Felonies

The primary difference between misdemeanors and felonies is the amount of jail time that a convicted offender can be sentenced to serve. Many felonies are also broken down into classifications, or levels of seriousness, according to what punishments may be imposed.
Felonies that are broken down into these differing classifications include:
• Murder
• Rape
• Arson
• Sale of illegal drugs
• Grand theft
• Kidnapping
These felonies can be classified from Class 1, 2 and 3. Felonies such as the lowest levels of theft up to Class 1 felonies which carry a life’s sentence in prison or the death penalty. Class 1 felonies are generally murder or first degree intentional homicide.

Severity of Punishments

The classification of misdemeanors and felonies is legally based on the severity of punishments and the most severe of punishments are reserved for the most serious offense. Traffic violations, trespass, petty theft and similar offenses are misdemeanors and depending on the state, carry maximum jail times of between 6 months and 1 year. The attendant fines are also limited to relatively small amounts of money, generally $1000 to $2000 maximum.
Felonies such as murder, rape, arson and kidnapping are substantially more serious and all carry jail times of at least one year and in most cases, substantially greater terms of incarceration. At the most severe level of felony classification, Class A, the maximum penalty can be life in prison without parole or the death penalty.

Felony and Misdemeanor Legal Help

If you are accused of or arrested for a felony or misdemeanor, you will want legal assistance, either to help prove your innocence or negotiate a lesser charge or sentence.

Say, for example, you are charged with felony possession, which is when someone possesses a certain amount of an illegal substance, such as cocaine or marijuana. You would want to get the best criminal lawyers you can afford. That is because sentencing for felony possession can entail multiple years in prison. Even in situations involving misdemeanors, you may want to seek legal representation. If you cannot afford legal representation, you can have a defense attorney appointed to you. This attorney is known as a public defender. If you can afford a private criminal defense attorney, you should call our office for a free consultation.

Consequences of a Felony and a Misdemeanor Conviction

Generally speaking, if you are found guilty of a felony, you face at least a year in prison. However, prison sentences can be much longer, and may even result in the death penalty. You may also have to pay fines or other restitution. Not surprisingly, misdemeanor convictions carry less serious sentences. If someone found guilty of a misdemeanor, you would face less than a year of imprisonment and might have a sentence that do not include any jail time. Punishment for a misdemeanor crime can also include fines, probation and/or community service.

In addition, convicted felons face long-term consequences even after they’ve fulfilled their punishment. Felons can lose the right to vote, work in certain fields, obtain certain licenses and serve on juries. In some instances, felony convictions will publicly follow you for the rest of your life. People convicted of sexual offenses, for example, are included in state databases that can be easily accessed and searched. Sexual offenders may also be required to tell neighbors about their crimes before moving into a new home.

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What is the difference between a felony and a misdemeanor in Utah? ›

A misdemeanor is an offense lower than a felony which can be punished with a county jail term of up to 364 days, a fine, or both. Many city and county ordinances and some state laws are misdemeanors. There are three categories of misdemeanors.

What is the main difference between felonies and misdemeanors felonies? ›

Misdemeanors are less serious than felonies and carry lighter penalties. Typically, such penalties may include less than a year in jail, community service, fines, rehabilitation and/or probation. Felonies, on the other hand, come with at least a year (and sometimes decades or even a lifetime) in prison.

Which of the following is the difference between a felony and misdemeanor? ›

A felony is a crime for which the potential jail or prison sentence exceeds one year. A misdemeanor is a crime that results in a jail term of less than one year, but more than 15 days. A third type of offense, called a violation, is not considered a crime and carries a maximum potential sentence of 15 days.

What is the main difference between a felony and a misdemeanor quizlet? ›

What is the difference between a felony and a misdemeanor? A misdemeanor is criminal offense usually punishable by a fine and/or a jail term of less than one year. A felony is serious crime usually punishable by death or imprisonment for a year or longer.

What is a felony in Utah? ›

Utah Felony Crimes

A felony is a major crime that can be punished with imprisonment and/or a fine. In Utah, there are four categories of felonies: Capital Offense - Aggravated murder is a capital offense punishable by life in prison, life in prison without parole, or death.

What is considered a misdemeanor in Utah? ›

Class A Misdemeanor - Class A misdemeanors include negligent homicide, DUI with injury, theft, assault on a police officer, criminal mischief, and possession of marijuana of more than one ounce and less than 16 ounces. Class A misdemeanor convictions are punishable by up to one year in jail and up to $2,500 in fines.

What is the most common felony misdemeanor? ›

The 4 Most Common Types of Felony Offenses
  • #1: Drug Crimes. Although there have been recent changes in state laws, including Arizona, that now make some drug crimes misdemeanors, many drug crimes can lead to felony charges. ...
  • #2: Violent Crimes. ...
  • #3: Theft. ...
  • #4: Sex Crimes.
Jan 10, 2022

What are misdemeanors and felonies different categories of? ›

Criminal statutes in every state have multiple categories of criminal offenses, which often include felonies, misdemeanors, and infractions. Lawmakers determine the category of a particular offense based on factors like the offense's severity, the circumstances in which it took place, and the damage caused.

Are felonies more serious crimes than misdemeanors? ›

A misdemeanor is a less serious crime than a felony. Felonies are the most serious crimes you can commit and have long jail or prison sentences, fines, or permanent loss of freedoms. Misdemeanors usually involve jail time, smaller fines, and temporary punishments.

What is felony or misdemeanour? ›

A felony is typically defined as a crime punishable by a term of imprisonment of one year or more. Misdemeanours are often defined as offenses punishable only by fines or by short terms of imprisonment in local jails.

What is the lowest level of misdemeanor? ›

Second degree misdemeanors are the lowest level of misdemeanor criminal offense.

What are the 4 types of sentencing? ›

Four major goals are usually attributed to the sentencing process: retribution, rehabilitation, deterrence, and incapacitation.

What are the two major differences between misdemeanor and an infraction? ›

Infractions typically resolve quickly, i.e. in one to three court appearances. This is most common with traffic violations, parking violations, seat belt violations and littering. Misdemeanors, on the other hand, can take several months, or even a year, to resolve – even without trial.

Who determines whether a crime will be a felony or a misdemeanor quizlet? ›

The judge determines whether a crime is a misdemeanor or a felony. The state, when enacting the criminal statute, will specify punishment, determining which crimes are punishable as felonies and misdemeanors.

When assessing a crime against a person what is the distinguishing factor between a misdemeanor and a felony quizlet? ›

What is the difference between a felony and a misdemeanor? Felony = crime punishable by either imprsionment exceeding one year or by death. Misdemeanor = crime punishable by a fine or imprisonment of one year or less.

Does a felony ever go away in Utah? ›

Record Expungement Eligibility

Misdemeanors under the Utah Traffic Code: 10 years. Felonies under the Utah Controlled Substance Act: 10 years. Other felonies: 7 years. Class A misdemeanors: 5 years.

How long is a felony on your record in Utah? ›

7 years

Is possession a felony in Utah? ›

Possession. Possession of 1 ounce – 1 pound is a class A misdemeanor punishable by a maximum sentence of 1 year imprisonment and a maximum fine of $2,500. Possession of 1 pound -100 pounds is a third degree felony punishable by a maximum sentence of 5 years imprisonment and a maximum fine of $5,000.

What happens with a misdemeanor in Utah? ›

A misdemeanor is a lower offense than a Utah felony. A misdemeanor can be punished with a county jail term of up to one year and, or a fine. You can not go to prison for a misdemeanor conviction.

Is speeding a misdemeanor in Utah? ›

UTAH TRAFFIC TICKETS. In Utah, speeding tickets are Class C Misdemeanors. The Utah Traffic Code can be found at 41-6a-101. It is rather large and has 20 different subchapters.

Does a misdemeanor stay on your record Utah? ›

Utah's “Clean Slate” law was implemented on February 10th 2022 and the Utah Courts began the process of automatically expunging qualifying misdemeanor records.

What is the lowest type of felony? ›

For state felonies, the number for the lowest class felony is different state by state. So, for example, in some states, a 4th Degree felony is the lowest class felony, least serious type of felony offense that a defendant can face. A 4th Degree felony is also one step above the highest level misdemeanor in the state.

What's the least worst felony? ›

Class E – referred to as “non-violent” – felonies are the lowest such charge in New York. Though serious, extreme punishment does not accompany Class E felonies. For example, a DWI or DUI is charged as an E felony when you have one prior DWI conviction within the last 10 years.

What are the three most likely punishments for misdemeanors? ›

Misdemeanors are typically punishable by a fine, incarceration or a combination of the two. Felonies, which are the most serious criminal offenses, are generally penalized by both incarceration and a fine.

What are less serious crimes? ›

The less serious crimes are called misdemeanors for example shoplifting or assault. Minor criminal violations are called offenses, these are crimes such as driving through a red light or speeding.

What three elements must be shown by a prosecutor to convict an accused person of a crime? ›

In order to convict the defendant, these elements of a crime must then be proven in a court of law beyond a reasonable doubt. Most crimes require that three essential elements be present: a criminal act (actus reus), criminal intent (mens rea), and a concurrence of the previous two elements.

What must the prosecution prove to convict a suspect? ›

In a criminal case, the prosecution bears the burden of proving that the defendant is guilty beyond all reasonable doubt. This means that the prosecution must convince the jury that there is no other reasonable explanation that can come from the evidence presented at trial.

Which two crimes are considered the most serious of felonies? ›

Felonies are the most serious type of crime and are often classified by degrees, with a first degree felony being the most serious. They include terrorism, treason, arson, murder, rape, robbery, burglary, and kidnapping, among others.

What is the most severe misdemeanor? ›

A first-degree misdemeanor charge is the most serious form of a misdemeanor. A conviction for one can cost you up to six months in jail and $2,500 in fines for a first offense. First-degree misdemeanor crimes include: DUIs.

What is the most common violent felony? ›

Aggravated assault is the most common type of violent crime. It includes criminal behavior that involves an attack on someone with the intent to cause injury. It may or may not include the use of a weapon.

What is the most common type of crime give an example? ›

1. Larceny / Theft. Larceny-theft hits the top of the crime list, far outweighing any other crime.

What are the 4 elements of a crime? ›

Under U.S. law, four main elements of a crime exist:
  • Mental State (Mens Rea) Mens rea is Latin for “guilty mind.” The legal theory of mens rea refers to criminal intent. ...
  • Conduct (Actus Reus) ...
  • Concurrence. ...
  • Causation.

Which of the following crime categories carries the lowest punishment? ›

Infractions. Infractions, which can also be called violations, are the least serious crimes and include minor offenses such as jaywalking and motor vehicle offenses that result in a simple traffic ticket. Infractions are generally punishable by a fine or alternative sentencing such as traffic school.

How many misdemeanors equal a felony in Illinois? ›

Misdemeanors in Illinois come with a maximum jail punishment of 364 days. In Illinois, crimes are often first misdemeanors, but become felonies on the second offense.

Is kidnapping an example of offenses against the person? ›

Kidnapping is another crime against a person where that person is taken against their will and may be held somewhere. Crime against person cases can range in circumstances. The penalties are also different depending on the crime.

What does degree F mean in jail in Florida? ›

First degree felony: The most heinous or inhumane conduct falls into the category of first degree felony. A defendant finds guilty of a first degree felony can get 30 years of imprisonment and fine of not more than $10,000. Also, in some cases, the judge orders the culprit to pay the victim restitution.

What is the most common sentencing? ›

Probation, the most frequently used criminal sanction, is a sentence that an offender serves in the community in lieu of incarceration.

What are 3 factors that a judge takes into consideration when sentencing? ›

The judge may consider a variety of aggravating or mitigating factors. These include whether the defendant has committed the same crime before, whether the defendant has expressed regret for the crime, and the nature of the crime itself.

How long is 3 life sentences? ›

A basic life conviction in the United States carries a minimum of 25 years before parole eligibility. 3 life sentences would mean the person wouldn't be eligible for release until 75 years have passed.

What's worse than a felony? ›

California Penal Code allows for three main categories of punishable offenses— an infraction, misdemeanor, and felony—as well as a fourth category called a “wobbler” which can be charged either as a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances.

What is the basic difference between a felony and a misdemeanor _____? ›

Misdemeanors are less serious than felonies and carry lighter penalties. Typically, such penalties may include less than a year in jail, community service, fines, rehabilitation and/or probation. Felonies, on the other hand, come with at least a year (and sometimes decades or even a lifetime) in prison.

What is a wobbler? ›

A wobbler is a special class of crimes involving conduct that varies widely in its level of seriousness. Wobbler statutes cover a wide range of offenses, including assault with a deadly weapon, vehicular manslaughter, money laundering, and defacements of property with graffiti.

What is the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony give an example of each? ›

A felony is a more serious crime than a misdemeanor and carries much higher penalties, such as long-term jail sentencing. For example, murder or armed robbery are felonies, while shoplifting — typically a nonviolent crime — is a misdemeanor.

What is an example of a felony? ›

Examples of felony crimes include manslaughter or murder, aggravated assault, kidnapping, and more. Felonies can also involve nonviolent activities that are still considered extremely harmful.

Which of the following crimes would be defined as a misdemeanor? ›

Common misdemeanors include a first-offense drunk driving offense, shoplifting, and simple assault.

What are 3 factors that determine how an offender goes through the criminal justice process? ›

The sentence an offender convicted of a felony receives depends on the current crime, the offender's criminal history, and the discretion of the court.

Which determines what types of conduct constitute felonies or misdemeanors? ›

The United States Congress sets the penalties for all federal criminal acts. Thus, Congress decides which criminal acts are felonies and which ones are misdemeanors.

Do misdemeanors go away in Utah? ›

Utah's “Clean Slate” law was implemented on February 10th 2022 and the Utah Courts began the process of automatically expunging qualifying misdemeanor records.

Does a misdemeanor show up on a background check in Utah? ›

The Charges That Appear on Background Checks in Utah

Essentially, if you have been convicted of a misdemeanor you will only pass a background check if the employer, landlord, or other party conducting the search does not search for misdemeanor charges. Many employers and landlords only perform checks for felonies.

What crimes Cannot be expunged in Utah? ›

Exclusions: While Utah law allows most types of records to be expunged, due to their nature, certain types of records cannot be expunged under Utah law. These include capital felonies, certain violent felonies, felony automobile homicide, registrable sex offenses, and registrable child abuse offenses.

How do I get a felony reduced in Utah? ›

The court can lower the degree of a conviction by one degree if you meet all the following requirements: 5 years or more have passed since you were sentenced for a later conviction (in a different case) and you have successfully completed your probation or parole for that case.

What are 3 felonies in Utah? ›

A third-degree felony (the least serious type of felony in Utah) is punishable by an indeterminate prison term of up to five years and a $5,000 fine. Promoting (or "exploiting") prostitution, theft of a catalytic converter, and shooting at a vehicle are a few examples of third-degree felonies in Utah.

Can you get probation for a felony in Utah? ›

With most felonies, you will be placed on supervised probation through Utah's Adult Probation & Parole. There are private, non-governmental supervising probation agencies who get paid by the probationer.

What is the lowest misdemeanor in Utah? ›

Class C Misdemeanors are the lowest level of misdemeanor and just one step above minor infractions such as speeding. The maximum punishments for crimes of this level include 90 days of jail time and a fine of up to $750.

What is the lowest class misdemeanor? ›

Class C misdemeanors are usually the least serious of all misdemeanor charges, often with no jail time required and minimal or nominal fines.

How much does it cost to get a felony expunged in Utah? ›

Expungement Cost

$65 application fee – File “Application of Eligibility” with Utah Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI). $65 for each certificate – Order “Certificates of Eligibility”” from BCI for each conviction.

Can you leave the state with a pending felony charge in Utah? ›

If you choose to leave the state in the hopes of ignoring your charges, the Utah courts will issue a bench warrant for your arrest. If and when you are picked up by law enforcement in another state, the courts in Utah will be notified, and extradition may be arranged.

How far back can a background check go in Utah? ›

Generally, background checks go as far back as the last 7 years of a person's history.


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