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Felonies vs. Misdemeanors in Maryland Law

Felonies vs. Misdemeanors in Maryland Law

Do you know how Maryland state law defines misdemeanors and felonies? If you’re like most people, you may understand that misdemeanors are considered “lesser” offenses, but that doesn’t mean they necessarily carry lighter punishments. Even when they do, the consequences of a misdemeanor can impact your life for years to come.

When looking for a criminal defense attorney in Maryland, it’s essential to know not only the difference between misdemeanors and felonies but the potential consequences you’re facing. The best criminal defense attorney will know tried and true strategies for your situation to fight for and protect your rights. 

Misdemeanors vs. Felonies

The public perception that misdemeanors are considered less severe than felonies is usually true. However, that isn’t the case in Maryland. It used to be that a misdemeanor in the state was any crime carrying a sentence of a year or less in prison. The state legislature has since imposed specific classifications for crimes and given them specific sentencing guidelines. As a result, some misdemeanors carry harsher penalties than felonies.

Not helping matters is that felonies, even those with seemingly lighter sentences, are still considered severe crimes with far-reaching consequences. So while you can’t look at potential penalties to determine what crimes are misdemeanors and which ones are felonies, you and your criminal lawyer can look it up to get the specifics.

Misdemeanors in Maryland

The punishment for misdemeanors in Maryland can include probation, fines (between $500 and $5,000), and up to twenty years in prison. Sentencing guidelines vary from crime to crime, and a conviction doesn’t mean you’ll receive the harshest sentence possible. Still, you should take misdemeanors very seriously, because a conviction creates a long-lasting mark on your criminal record that can limit your future opportunities in life.

The following crimes are examples of misdemeanors in Maryland:

  • DUI and DWI
  • Possession of certain controlled substances
  • Violating a protective order
  • Stalking, harassment, and intimidation

Even light sentences can create long-lasting damage to your life, especially if you’re convicted of future offenses, as a judge can use your record to justify harsher sentencing.

Felonies in Maryland

The punishment for felonies can include steep fines and anywhere between one year and life in prison. Keep in mind that Maryland also utilizes the death penalty. If convicted of a felony, you can also lose some of your civil rights, even when released. Examples of felonies in Maryland include:

  • Assault in the first degree
  • Drug possession with intent to distribute
  • Sexual assault 
  • Burglary

Some crimes that are classified as misdemeanors can become felonies under specific circumstances. For example, while domestic violence is usually a misdemeanor in Maryland, it can become a felony depending on the severity of the violence and if a weapon was used. Authorities can also charge you with a combination of misdemeanors and felonies.

Statute of Limitations

Once again, there are no automatic guidelines for statutes of limitations in Maryland regarding felonies or misdemeanors. How long authorities have to charge you depends on the specific crime committed, not its classification. 

There are some general rules regarding both, but they aren’t absolute. For example, there’s no statute of limitations for felonies in Maryland. Most misdemeanors have a one-year limit, but some have more extended periods.

Alternatives to Imprisonment

Maryland sentencing guidelines, while severe in comparison to other states, do allow for some leeway. When appropriate, a judge may offer a suspended sentence with conditional probation. If you complete the probation period and meet all the judge’s requirements, the judge may strike the conviction.

Get Legal Representation Specific to Your Case

Getting help from a lawyer specializing in an area relevant to the charges you’re facing is of the utmost importance and vital to getting your sentence reduced or charges dropped.

Generally, a criminal defense lawyer won’t specialize in misdemeanors or felonies. Instead, they will have a focus on specific crimes at either or both levels. The difference between a domestic violence attorney and one specializing in felony domestic violence can be monumental when it comes time to mount a legal defense. Choose the right lawyer for your specific case.

Widder Law Will Fight For You

Maryland’s complex misdemeanor and felony guidelines can be overwhelming, but don’t let them stop you from finding the best criminal defense attorney possible. 

Our team at Jeremy Widder Law can represent you with a skilled DUI attorney, drug crime lawyer, defense against substance-related charges, and representation for violent and non-violent felonies alike. We are committed to walking with you from start to finish and giving your unique case the attention it deserves.

We’re ready to help. Let’s talk.


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