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What is the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony?

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North Carolina Criminal Defense Lawyer Brad Smith of Arnold & Smith, PLLC answers the question: What is the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony?

Question: "What is the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony?"

Brad Smith:

Misdemeanors are generally your least severe charges in North Carolina. Felonies are murder, rape, breaking into cars, breaking into houses, they are more serious crimes.

The legal difference between a felony and a misdemeanor is the various civil rights or constitutional rights that are taken away when you are convicted of a felony.

When you are convicted of a felony you can forfeit your ability to carry, to have various state licenses, your ability to practice law for instance, to sell insurance, or to sell securities.

But the biggest thing that is oftentimes taken away from you with a conviction of a felony is your right to bear arms, you can never possess a firearm again without petitioning a court and going through a very detailed process and having that right returned to you.

Your right to vote in an election can also be taken away from a felony conviction.

Now in North Carolina your citizenship rights with respect to voting are automatically restored once you are done serving probation and once you are done serving any sort of active sentence.

So the biggest sort of distinction between a felony and a misdemeanor is that misdemeanors don’t carry with it, doesn’t take away your right to possess a firearm, to possess a rifle, to possess a handgun it doesn’t take away your right, per se to sell insurance or to sell securities or to practice law or whatever sort of state licenses that exist in North Carolina.