Criminal Defense

Felonies, Misdemeanors & Infractions

We hope that the following overview is helpful. It discusses what would happen if convicted of a crime. However, much of it is technical, so please give us a call toll free at 888-571-5700 to discuss your matter personally with a Nichols & Eberth attorney as defenses which are not listed below may apply to your case.

The Michigan Penal Code classifies all criminal offenses as infractions, misdemeanors or felonies. Offenses such as traffic violations (e.g. speeding tickets, etc.) are infractions punishable by a fine usually not exceeding $250.00 plus penalty assessments (court costs). No time in jail can be imposed for an infraction.

Misdemeanors are more serious offenses (e.g. drunk driving, petty theft, etc.) and can be punishable by imprisonment in the county jail for up to one year and a fine up to $1,000.00.

Felonies are much more serious offenses (e.g. robbery, grand theft, drug possession and/or sales of drugs, etc.) and can be punishable with significantly higher fines and imprisonment in a state prison for a period of years. Felonies include capital offenses which are the most serious of all (e.g. murder, rape, arson, etc.) and are punishable with a maximum of life imprisonment with no possibility of parole. Many sentencing issues, such as restitution to the victim of a crime, alcohol and drug programs and sex or drug offender lifetime registration with the local police agency can apply to both felonies and misdemeanors.


You should be wary of potential collateral consequences of a misdemeanor conviction. Some individuals with professional certifications and licenses can loose their livelihood depending upon the nature of a conviction The sentencing scheme for most misdemeanors is typically found within the definition of the specified crime.

Many misdemeanors provide for a minimum punishment which leave the judge no discretion to change. For example, a conviction for a multiple offender DUI requires jail time or equivalent jail alternative work programs and/or community service, alcohol programs and fines.

If the crime is defined in the law as a misdemeanor but fails to mention a specific punishment, then the maximum jail time is six months. However, an attorney can often convince a judge not to order any jail time, especially for some “first offense” misdemeanors.

Frequently, it is appropriate for your attorney to negotiate a “plea-bargain” or reduction of an offense or compromise on the proposed punishment so as to avoid more serious consequences. Some crimes (such as theft) are known as “wobblers” and can be punished as felonies or misdemeanors depending upon the amount of the merchandise in question.

Some offenses (e.g. under the influence of drugs etc.) may be eligible for “plea under advisement” or “diversion.” These provisions permit someone, who has pled guilty or no contest to a drug charge, to complete a drug awareness program and have the underlying criminal case dismissed after 18 months. However, if the defendant fails to successfully complete the program, the court can impose a jail sentence. Other provisions apply to theft offenses.

If someone is convicted of a misdemeanor, the court can either grant or deny probation. The length of the term of probation will vary based upon each individual’s current situation, and the circumstances that resulted in the conviction. Any prior convictions will also play a part in the length and terms of the probation. Offenses such as DUI, child endangerment, domestic violence and being under the influence of drugs permit probation to last up to 5 years. The court, in its discretion, could even order that any custody time be served in a home detention (house arrest or electronic-monitoring) program. If the court imposes a fine, it will often provide for an alternative sentence consisting of community service hours in lieu of a fine.

Lastly, an attorney for a defendant may even petition the court to have his conviction “expunged” (erased) from his record. If probation was granted, the defendant must have successfully completed the terms of probation. If probation was not granted, the defendant must have completed the sentence of the court and wait a year before filing the petition. The defendant must also establish that he/she is living an honest life and is free of any other subsequent arrest or sentence. This remedy does not have the effect of sealing the record of arrest. Further, the “conviction” which is set aside can be pled as an enhancement in future prosecutions. Defendants must still disclose the arrest and proceedings when applying for certain professional licensing or government jobs.


Felonies are the most serious offenses and require a vigorous defense. The Michigan Legislature has stated that the primary goal of Michigan’s Sentencing Law, enacted in 1977, is to punish the offender. Every felony is sorted into one of six “crime groups”. The Court, when imposing sentencing after a conviction, or a plea of guilty, takes certain factors into consideration. For example, any prior convictions, the type of offense, the harm to the victim, or property, etc. Any prior misdemeanors will also have an effect on the term of sentence imposed.

For persons facing their first felony conviction, it is possible for your attorney to negotiate with the prosecutor for a “plea under advisement” or “diversion” program, depending on the felony for which you were charged.

Unless specifically precluded by a statute (depending on the type of crime), a judge can sentence a convicted felon to a term of probation. Among other things, the court may require the defendant, as a term and condition of probation, to serve local jail time, pay fines, complete community service and pay restitution.

As you can see an arrest and conviction can have extremely serious consequences. Nichols & Eberth, P.C. has experienced attorneys who can help you. You are welcome to call us toll free at Nichols & Eberth, P.C. for a FREE INITIAL CONSULTATION. 1-888-571-5700

Felony – Misdemeanor- Infraction Disclaimer

This felony, misdemeanor, and infraction defense information including but not limited to grand theft, robbery, drug possession, sales of drugs, murder, DUI, drunk driving, juvenile crimes or other legal defense information presented at this site should not be construed to be formal legal advice nor the formation of a lawyer or attorney client relationship. Our law firm encourages you to seek independent counsel for legal advice regarding your individual criminal defense felony, misdemeanor and/or infraction legal issues. Any results portrayed here are dependant on the facts of that case and the results will differ if based on different facts. We invite you to contact a Nichols & Eberth, P.C. attorney by calling 1-888-571-5700.