What is the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony charge?
Under the laws of the State of Tennessee all criminal offenses fall into one of these two categories of charges. Misdemeanors are generally less serious crimes for which the punishment may include incarceration (jail time) up to no more than 11 months and 29 days. Most traffic violations are misdemeanors that fall into the less serious Class C or B misdemeanors with a possible jail sentence of up to 30 days or 6 months. DUIs, simple possession of illegal drugs, theft of property under $500 in value and simple assault (without a weapon or serious bodily injury) are examples of more serious A category misdemeanors with a possible jail sentence of up to 11/29.
Felonies are generally more serious crimes for which the punishment may include a prison sentence of a year or more. Theft over $500, statutory rape and criminal negligent homicide are both examples of less serious Class E felonies for which there is a possible prison sentence beginning at one year. Felonies run from the least serious Class E, up to Class D, all of the way up to the most serious Class A. This is explained further herein below according to the Tennessee sentencing grid under the question about sentencing laws. Obviously the more serious crimes of child rape and second degree murder are examples of Class A felonies. First Degree Murder is unclassified due to the possibility of a life sentence or even death sentence and is treated separately from the ‘grid’ under Tennessee’s sentencing law.