If you face criminal charges, you will typically either have a misdemeanor or a felony against you. While they are both criminal in nature, there are differences.
California Legislative Information explains felony crimes are generally the more severe type and come with much stricter punishments. Some crimes can be a misdemeanor or felonies. It often depends on the circumstances of the situation.
When it comes to punishments, felonies can carry severe punishment. Some felony charges could result in the death penalty or life in prison. However, these crimes also could result in incarceration of different lengths in either prison or jail. It typically depends on the severity of the crime and your criminal background as to the exact punishment.
Generally speaking, most felony charges will carry at least one year of incarceration, although it is entirely possible for a person to have a felony conviction and never have to serve time. A good plea deal could mean you walk away with only fines and probation.
The prosecutor often has the final say in whether to pursue a criminal charge as a misdemeanor or felony. However, some charges are always felonies. Murder, for example, is always a felony charge due to the severity of the crime. In cases where a crime can be either classification, the prosecutor may offer to reduce it to a misdemeanor in a plea bargain.
In some cases, the prosecutor may decide to not charge you with a felony because of a lack of evidence or other issues with the case. It may be easier to prove the misdemeanor charge.
A felony is the worst charge you can have on your criminal record. It is always to your advantage to try to seek a reduction in the charges to avoid a felony conviction.