What is the difference between a Misdemeanor and a Felony charge?

In California, criminal offenses are divided into less serious offenses and more serious offenses.  Less serious offenses are known as misdemeanors.  A misdemeanor is defined as a crime that is punishable by a maximum of a fine and/or imprisonment in a county jail for 364 days. As in most criminal cases, a misdemeanor begins when a police report alleging illegal acts is presented to the District Attorney who decides to file misdemeanor charges against the defendant. The prosecutor will file a complaint in criminal court and set a date for the defendant’s first appearance.

If you are aware of the fact that you have a pending court date, it is extremely important that you appear in court on the day and time specified. Failure to appear will result in the issuance of a warrant and possible arrest.


More Serious offenses are known as felonies. An example of a misdemeanor offense might be trespassing.  An example of a felony offense might be residential burglary.

Generally speaking, most felony offenses carry substantially greater potential punishment and more severe collateral consequences than misdemeanor offenses.  For these reasons, felony cases are often more complicated and may take longer to resolve than misdemeanor cases.