A felony is a serious crime. Felonies are usually classified by degrees with the first degree felony being the most serious. Examples of felonies are murder, aggravated or grand theft, rape, etc. Felonies can be punished in a variety of ways depending on the severity of the crime such as substantial fines, prison sentences that exceed one year, or even death.
Misdemeanors are generally crimes that are considered less serious. Common misdemeanors include minor thefts,some traffic offenses (such as DUI or driving on a suspended license), and minor drug offenses. In some states, misdemeanors are classified by degrees, with first degree as a more serious misdemeanor and second and third degree for less serious misdemeanors. Misdemeanors are usually punished by substantial fines or jail time, usually less than one year.