Misdemeanors are crimes that are less serious than felonies. Misdemeanors can be punished with up to a year in county jail, but no state prison. Misdemeanor convictions can usually be resolved by paying a fine or serving probation, or both. Typical misdemeanors are driving under the influence and drug possession.
Felonies are the most serious crimes. These are crimes that can be punished with a year or more in prison, although a skilled attorney can obtain reduced sentences. Typical felonies include drug sales, assault with a deadly weapon, and murder.
The investigative/pre-filing stage of a case occurs when law enforcement is still investigating the case and the prosecutor has not yet decided to file criminal charges. The prosecutor's decision can be based on many factors, including the strength of the evidence, the seriousness of the conduct, and mitigating factors.
The post-conviction stage is everything that happens after your conviction. There are a variety of ways for your attorney to reduce the charges you were convicted of or clean up your record, often by means of expungement.