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  • What is the Difference Between Felonies and Misdemeanors?

    Posted on by JACK MKHITARIAN

    Man in handcuffs

    What kind of defense do you need for a felony or misdemeanor? Know what to expect – know your rights!

    Every state, including New Mexico, has a system where crimes are broken into two major categories: Felonies and misdemeanors. Determining where a crime falls depends on the potential punishment and the circumstances of the crime.

    There are some crimes that can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony offense; therefore, it is always important to have an attorney assess your case and determine if you are likely to face a harsher punishment. These crimes, known as “wobblers,” are crimes that can go either way, and are by far the most dangerous.


    These are not punishable by jail time, but are often confused with misdemeanors. Infractions are violations of the law and are petty offenses punishable by fines. Infractions do not have a jail sentence or probation tied to them; therefore, the defendant will not have the right to a jury trial. If you have been charged with an infraction, you still have the right to hire an attorney, but an infraction doesn’t require the government to pay for such attorney.

    Traffic offenses are the most common example of an infraction. They could carry extreme fines, but you are not going to go to jail for an infraction. If, however, a crime was committed, you could have a traffic violation as well as a misdemeanor or felony charge.


    These are criminal offenses that come with up to one-year jail time. The punishment may also include a fine, courtroom fees, probation, community service hours, and restitution to the victim (if any).

    If you are charged with a misdemeanor, you may still be entitled to a jury trial. You can also seek legal representation at the government’s expense.

    Misdemeanors are further broken up by their class, with certain misdemeanors carrying harsher penalties than others.


    Felonies are the most serious type of criminal charge that anyone can have on his or her record. These involve harsh (if not violent) crimes. They can include physical harm to a victim, threat of harm, white collar crimes, and even fraud schemes. Felonies carry much longer prison sentences (all are over one calendar year), and harsh fines.

    Offenses that are traditionally charged as misdemeanors can be escalated to felonies, especially for repeat offenders. Felony convictions, however, don’t always result in jail or prison time. There are instances where a person can receive a felony conviction, but enter into a program or have a deferred sentence.

    Felonies with prison sentences will typically last from one year to life without parole – and some carry the penalty of death.

    In the state of New Mexico, felonies are also broken into categories of degree.

    What is a Wobbler?

    Wobblers are offenses that can be charged as either a felony or misdemeanor. Typically, the offense could be downgraded from a felony if the prosecution and defense strike a deal. For example, if someone is charged with assault with a deadly weapon (a felony), but the judge only sentences him or her to four months in jail, three years of probation, and 150 hours of community service. This results in the conviction being a misdemeanor instead of a felony, because the offender is only serving four months in jail.

    Get Assistance for Any Type of Arrest

    Crimes can be charged as felonies or misdemeanors, but both carry harsh long-term consequences. If you have been arrested or are being accused of a crime, it is imperative that you seek legal representation as soon as possible. Contact the New Mexico Criminal Law Offices’ team of defense attorneys by calling 505-375-4672 or requesting your consultation online.