If you’re facing criminal charges in South Carolina, you’ll want to know the differences between misdemeanor charges and felony charges, and you’ll also want to know the pros and cons of accepting a plea bargain to reduce the charges against you. It is important to seek the guidance of a skilled South Carolina criminal defense attorney when exploring how these terms and potentialities will specifically affect you and your case. Don’t make all your decisions based on the following information. Learn from what we have to share, then contact the Michael Jeffcoat Firm for a consultation, and let us evaluate the unique nature of your case and the options in front of you.
Differences Between Misdemeanors and Felonies
The differences between misdemeanor charges and felony charges are vast. It may be only a few steps from one to another, but the difference in consequences can be severe. The misdemeanor charges are the better of the two, because they are considered not as serious and the consequences aren’t as severe. Most convictions are misdemeanors, due to the ability to accept a plea bargain, as we’ll address below. With a misdemeanor conviction, you are likely to face serious fines, possible jail time, probation, and other penalties, based on your charges. For example, if it is a drug charge, you might also have to complete a substance abuse treatment program as part of the consequences of your crime.
The more severe crimes are the felony charges, which come with much harsher consequences. This can include more than a year in prison, and in some cases, imprisonment for life. It all depends on the crime. A good example of the space between a misdemeanor and a felony is in the example of breaking somebody’s window as opposed to breaking all of the windows in a large building. If you break one window, you’ve harmed one household or business, and you’ve created enough damage to be charged with the less severe crime, a misdemeanor malicious injury to personal property charge. However, if you broke every window in a large building, you may have caused thousands of dollars worth of damage, and this would be a severe enough crime to be a felony malicious injury to personal property charge. This example is also a good way to dispel the myth that felony charges are only for things like murder and armed robbery. The same crime could be a misdemeanor or a felony, all depending on the details of the crime and the amount of damage done.
The Purpose of the Plea Bargain
Now that we understand the differences between misdemeanor charges and felony charges, and how simple it is for one crime to be classified as one or the other, we can approach the subject of plea bargains and explain what they are good for.
From the side of the prosecution, a plea bargain has many benefits. The prosecutor wants a guaranteed result, without risking a loss at trial. A plea bargain accomplishes this. The prosecutor is also under pressure to move cases through the system since the courts are frequently backed up with cases. A plea bargain gets you through the system quickly, without having to take up time in a court room.
On the side of the defense, a plea bargain can be a good thing or a bad thing. If you are not confident of winning your case at trial, then a plea bargain can allow you to accept a lesser charge, without going to trial. Maybe that felony charge can be reduced to a misdemeanor. You’ll face your milder (though still serious) consequences and move on with your life. However, those consequences are still serious. You’ll have heavy fines, a criminal record, and you might be in jail. If your original charge was a misdemeanor, then you might only be reducing the degree of the crime and the associated consequences. You might avoid jail, but still have fines to pay.
The pros and cons can vary on a case by case basis. This is where we recommend that you discuss the details of your specific case with a skilled and determined South Carolina criminal defense attorney at the Michael Jeffcoat Firm. Call today and find out how we can help.
Mr. Jeffcoat, a native of the Columbia area, founded the law firm in 1999. Mr. Jeffcoat got his undergraduate degree at Wofford College in 1994, majoring in Political Economy and Philosophy, and then went to the University of South Carolina School of Law, where he received his J.D. in 1997. After working in two law firms following his graduation from law school, Jeffcoat ventured out on his own to launch The Jeffcoat Firm in March of 1999.