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The difference between a misdemeanor and a felony

Kentucky residents who commit a crime may be charged with a misdemeanor or a felony. Misdemeanors generally carry sentences of no more than 12 months, and those sentences are typically served in a city or county jail. A felony is an offense that is considered especially serious such as murder, burglary or rape. If convicted, an individual may face more than a year in prison.

The procedures for trying a felony case are strictly adhered to in an effort to preserve a defendant's rights. There may be other punishments available as an alternative to jail or prison time or in addition to a sentence depending on the severity of the crime committed. If a defendant is charged with a misdemeanor, a prosecutor may be given more leeway to determine how the case will be handled. Those who face misdemeanor charges may also have a greater chance of obtaining a plea bargain.

In some cases, a crime such as drug possession will be treated as an infraction. This means that a person receives a citation to appear in court. If that person pleads guilty, he or she may face a fine or other penalties that do not include spending time in jail. Jaywalking or minor traffic violations may also qualify as infractions.

A person who is facing a criminal charge may benefit from hiring an attorney to help prepare a defense. An attorney may work to suppress evidence, challenge witness testimony or dispute physical evidence in an effort to get a defendant acquitted by a jury or get the case dismissed.

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