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The Spodek Law Group understands how delicate high-profile cases can be, and has a strong track record of getting positive outcomes. Our lawyers service a clientele that is nationwide. With offices in both LA and NYC, and cases all across the country - Spodek Law Group is a top tier law firm.

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Is a Violent Crime a Misdemeanor or a Felony?

By Spodek Law Group | July 27, 2023
(Last Updated On: October 17, 2023)

Last Updated on: 17th October 2023, 10:57 pm


Is a Violent Crime a Misdemeanor or a Felony?

When someone commits a crime, the legal system categorizes it as either a misdemeanor or a felony. But what exactly is the difference between these two types of crimes? And where do violent crimes like assault and battery fall in this spectrum? Let’s break it down.

Misdemeanors vs. Felonies: The Basics

Misdemeanors are generally considered less serious crimes, while felonies are more serious. The main differences are:

  • Misdemeanors are usually punishable by up to 1 year in jail, while felonies can result in prison time of more than 1 year.
  • Misdemeanors usually have smaller fines, like $1,000 or less, but felonies can have fines of $10,000 or more.
  • Misdemeanors don’t result in the loss of civil rights, but felons often lose rights like voting and gun ownership.

So felonies are no joke! They can really disrupt someone’s life. But misdemeanors aren’t just a slap on the wrist either. Some misdemeanors still carry the possibility of hefty fines or jail time.

Where Do Violent Crimes Fit In?

Many people assume violent crimes are automatically felonies. But in reality, they can be classified as either misdemeanors or felonies depending on the circumstances. Let’s look at some common violent crimes:

Simple Assault

Simple assault is causing someone to fear being harmed through words or actions . For example, threatening to hit someone or making a fist like you’re going to punch them. Simple assault is usually a misdemeanor. But it may become a felony if it involves a weapon or the victim is a police officer or other public official.


Battery is actually committing a violent act against someone, not just threatening it . Examples are punching, kicking, or using a weapon against someone. Battery can be a misdemeanor or felony based on the severity of injury. Minor injuries like bruises may lead to misdemeanor battery. But severely injuring someone could result in felony battery or aggravated battery charges.

Domestic Violence

Domestic violence includes violent acts between family or household members. It can include physical harm, sexual assault, emotional abuse, and other controlling behaviors . Many domestic violence charges start out as misdemeanors. But repeat offenses or more serious injuries often lead to felony charges.

Sexual Assault

Sexual assault covers non-consensual sexual acts from groping to rape. The exact charges depend on details like the type of sexual act, use of weapons or force, and age of the victim . Some forms of sexual assault, like groping, can be misdemeanors. But most rape and sexual assault charges are prosecuted as felonies.

What Factors Determine If a Violent Crime Is a Felony?

As we can see, the line between misdemeanor and felony for violent crimes depends on the circumstances. Some key factors include:

  • Type of weapon – Crimes involving deadly weapons often lead to felony charges.
  • Extent of injury – More serious injuries elevate crimes to felonies.
  • Intent – Violent crimes are felonies if the intent was to cause severe harm.
  • Relationship – Violence between family members may be prosecuted more harshly.
  • Prior offenses – Repeat violent acts often lead to felony charges.

The prosecution also has discretion in filing charges. They may choose harsher charges for crimes they want to crack down on in a community.

Defenses Against Violent Crime Charges

Facing criminal charges for violent acts can be scary. But there are defenses that may help get charges reduced or even dismissed in some cases:


Using reasonable force to protect yourself or others against harm may provide a legal defense. The response has to match the level of perceived threat for self-defense to apply .

Lack of Intent

If your actions were an accident versus intentional, it could help defend against criminal charges. For example, shoving someone by mistake rather than purposefully pushing them.

Mental Illness

Having a mental illness may provide a defense against criminal charges in some cases, If the illness impaired your ability to control your actions or understand they were wrong.

False Accusations

If you are falsely accused of a violent crime, an attorney can help investigate the charges and identify inconsistencies or flaws in the prosecution’s case.

The Takeaway on Violent Crimes

While violent crimes are deeply concerning, not every act of violence leads to felony charges. Factors like intent, injuries, and weapon use help determine if violent crimes become misdemeanors or felonies. Defendants also have options like claiming self-defense or false accusations. The key is getting experienced legal help to navigate the criminal justice system and achieve the best possible outcome.

At the end of the day, we should aim to resolve conflicts peacefully whenever possible. But if you do face criminal charges, know that an attorney can advise you through the process and defend your rights.

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