Am I Facing a Felony or Misdemeanor?

The Difference Matters

How Can I Tell if My Massachusetts Criminal Charge is a Felony or a Misdemeanor?

Any criminal charge, felony or misdemeanor, is a frightening, embarrassing, unexpected and foreign experience.  We get it and, with extensive experience handling Massachusetts criminal charges all over the state, we can help you understand exactly where you stand and offer you some advice as to the best path forward.

If you are facing criminal charges, whether it is a misdemeanor or a felony, you know that the stakes are high.

The penalties for conviction carry serious and often life-long consequences that can impact your wallet, your personal and professional reputation, your future employment, your driving privileges and fundamental rights including your freedom.

The more information you have about your situation, the better able you will be to handle it.

A good place to start is knowing how serious the charges are and what the potential consequences are.

So What is the Definition of a Felony in Massachusetts?

The answer to this is actually very simple and governed by statute.  G.L. c. 274, § 1:

A crime punishable by death or imprisonment in the state prison is a felony. All other crimes are misdemeanors.

The key word here is “punishable”, meaning that if a criminal conviction allows for the possibility of a state prison sentence, then it is a felony.

This is true even though the statue may also allow for the imposition of a sentence to the House of Corrections (jail).

Criminal charges that are only punishable by jail time (and not state prison) are misdemeanors.

Keep in mind that there is no possibility of being sentenced to state prison if your case is in the District Court. Sentences to state prison can only be imposed from the Superior Court and this requires that your case be presented to a Grand Jury and that an indictment be issued.

We have handled many Superior Court criminal cases in Massachusetts, but I can tell you that it is unlikely to happen in the vast majority of cases.

We have represented people on misdemeanor and felony charges in District Courts and Superior Courts all over Massachusetts. We can help to minimize -or completely avoid- the consequences of a criminal charge.

We understand that you are concerned about the impact it is going to have on your life and that of your family.  Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you would like an opinion specific to your situation.

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  • Assault & Battery
  • Disorderly Conduct
  • Domestic Assault
  • Drug Possession
  • Operating Under the Influence (OUI/DUI/Drunk Driving)
  • Leaving the Scene of an Accident (Hit and Run)
  • Impersonating a Police Officer
  • Indecent Exposure
  • Larceny or Shoplifting
  • Malicious Destruction of Property
  • Minor in Possession of Alcohol
  • Negligent Operation of a Motor Vehicle
  • Resisting Arrest
  • Solicitation of Prostitution / Sex for a Fee
  • Trespassing
  • Threats to Commit a Crime
  • and others
  • Assault and Battery with a Dangerous Weapon
  • Drug Possession with intent to sell or distribute
  • OUI 3rd offense or greater
  • Motor Vehicle Homicide
  • Child Endangerment
  • Child Pornography
  • Felony Sexual Assault / Rape
  • Indecent Assault
  • Gun Charges
  • Breaking and Entering (B&E) / Burglary
  • Kidnapping

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