When you face criminal charges, the crime will have a classification. Classifications include misdemeanor or felony.
A felony is a more serious classification. FindLaw explains some crimes could be a felony or a misdemeanor, and it will depend on the details of the situation as to which the prosecutor will charge you.
Nature of crime
In general, misdemeanors will be less serious crimes that do not have aggravating factors. Aggravating factors are those things that increase the severity of the crime due to endangering more people or adding additional laws you broke.
For example, a DUI may be a misdemeanor on its own, but if you had a child in the vehicle, that would be an aggravating factor that increases the charge to a felony. Another example is theft. If the value of the stolen goods is low, it may be a misdemeanor, but if the value is high, it would be a felony.
The punishment possibilities for a misdemeanor usually include fines and jail time. They may also include probation or counseling. Felonies usually have much stiffer penalty options. Any incarceration is usually in prison and not jail. The prosecutor may consider the possible punishment when deciding how to charge you.
For you personally, the difference between a felony and a misdemeanor can be huge. Felony convictions typically will carry more stigma. You may face more trouble getting jobs or finding a place to live with a felony on your record.
You should pay attention to the classification of the charges you face. This could have a big impact on the final results of your case.