What is the Difference Between a Misdemeanor and a Felony in Alaska?

If you have been charged with a crime in Alaska, among other information you need to know, it is important to understand whether you are being charged with a misdemeanor or a felony. Misdemeanors and felonies carry different penalties, and a felony conviction can have far greater consequences beyond the formal sentence imposed.

What constitutes a felony crime in Alaska?

Under Alaska law, the basic definition of a felony is a criminal offense for which the minimum potential sentence includes at least one year in state prison. Alaska law recognizes three “classes” of felonies, while the most-serious felonies are unclassified and each subject to the specific (and severe) penalties imposed under the relevant statutes:

Class A Felonies in Alaska

Under Section 11.81.250(a)(1) of the Alaska Statutes, Class A felonies are those which, “characteristically involve conduct resulting in serious physical injury or a substantial risk of serious physical injury to a person.” Examples include drug manufacturing, aggravated assault, and other serious violent offenses. Class A felonies carry the potential for up to a $250,000 fine and 20 years in prison, although most first-time felony offenders will face prison sentences of between five and eight years.

Class B Felonies in Alaska

Under Section 11.81.250(a)(2), a Class B felony is one which, “characteristically involve[s] conduct resulting in less severe violence against a person than class A felonies, aggravated offenses against property interests, or aggravated offenses against public administration or order.” This includes criminally negligent homicide, attempt or conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine, and various other serious offenses. Class B felonies carry the potential for up to a $100,000 fine and 10 years in prison, with most first-time offenders facing one to three years of imprisonment.

Class C Felonies in Alaska

Under Section 11.81.250(a)(3), a Class C felony is broadly defined as any felony offense that is not serious enough to be classified as a Class A or Class B felony or to be treated separately as an unclassified felony offense. Examples of Class C felonies include promoting or facilitating prostitution, failing to report violations of wildlife and gaming laws, and providing big game hunting services without proper certification. Class C felonies carry the potential for a $50,000 fine and up to five years of imprisonment, with most first-time offenders facing zero to two years.

For certain Class B and Class C felonies, defendants can be eligible for a suspended sentence. If a suspended sentence is granted, the defendant will be subject to probation, and violating the terms of probation can result in immediate imprisonment for the length of the suspended sentence.

Unclassified (Serious) Felonies in Alaska

Certain crimes are considered to be so severe that they are subject to penalties above and beyond those imposed for Class A felonies. These unclassified felonies are:

  • Murder in the first and second degree
  • Attempted murder in the first degree
  • Solicitation to commit murder in the first degree
  • Conspiracy to commit murder in the first degree
  • Murder of an unborn child
  • Sexual assault in the first degree
  • Sexual abuse of a minor in the first degree
  • Misconduct involving a controlled substance in the first degree
  • Promoting prostitution in the first degree
  • Kidnapping

The penalties for these unclassified felonies include fines of up to $500,000 and prison sentences that vary depending on the severity of the particular offense involved. For example, murder in the first degree or murder of an unborn child carries minimum prison sentences of 20 years and maximum prison sentences of 99 years. Murder of a uniformed police officer, firefighter or correctional employee carries a mandatory 99-year prison sentence, as does the commission of a murder during a robbery. For most other unclassified felonies, the potential prison sentences range anywhere from five to 99 years.

What constitutes a misdemeanor in Alaska?

A misdemeanor is any crime for which the maximum jail sentence is one year or less. Sections 11.81.250(a)(4) and (5) establish two classes of misdemeanors: Class A and Class B.

Class A Misdemeanors in Alaska

Class A misdemeanors are crimes which, “characteristically involve less severe violence against a person, less serious offenses against property interests, less serious offenses against public administration or order, or less serious offenses against public health and decency than felonies.” Examples include first-degree harassment, fourth-degree assault, driving under the influence (for a first-time standard offense), and theft involving $50 to $500 in the property. Class A misdemeanors carry the potential for a $10,000 fine and up to one year in state jail, with certain offenses (such as fourth-degree assault of a uniformed police officer) carrying a minimum jail sentence of 30 to 60 days.

Class B Misdemeanors in Alaska

Class B misdemeanors are those which, “characteristically involve a minor risk of physical injury to a person, minor offenses against property interests, minor offenses against public administration or order, or minor offenses against public health and decency.” Examples include disorderly conduct and prostitution. Class B misdemeanors carry the potential for a $2,000 fine and up to 90 days in jail unless an alternate maximum sentence is prescribed in the statute defining the offense.

Defending Yourself Against a Felony or Misdemeanor Charge in Alaska State Court

Regardless of whether you have been charged with an unclassified felony or a Class B misdemeanor, you are facing substantial fines and jail time. In order to protect yourself, it is important to start working on your defense as soon as possible. You could have a variety of defenses available, and working with an experienced criminal defense attorney in Anchorage, AK is the best way to avoid unnecessary (and potentially life-changing) consequences as a result of your arrest.

Speak to Alaska Criminal Defense Attorney Eric Derleth

If you have been arrested for a crime in Alaska, I encourage you to contact our criminal defense attorney promptly for a free and confidential consultation. To find out what defenses you may have available, call my office at 907-262-9164.

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