Distinguishing Misdemeanors from Felonies and Infractions

Arrested teenager with felony chargesIn many states, crimes fall into certain classifications — from misdemeanors to felonies. However, in some places, a third category includes infractions, petty crimes, and violations. Feldman & Lee and other experts say that it’s important to distinguish these from each other to understand the charges, terms of pleas, and punishments you may incur while consulting with a criminal defense attorney from Marysville.

Felony Charges

A felony is the most serious crime in all the categories. This type involves serious physical injury or threat to a victim. However, this category includes fraud and white-collar offenses. In some cases, misdemeanors may elevate into a felony, especially if the person commits the same offense for the second time or more.

Felonies carry the possibility of imprisonment, from one year (at the shortest) to a lifetime or even a death sentence without the possibility of parole. Some states have sub-categories for the felonies by degree or class.

Understanding Misdemeanors

A misdemeanor is a lighter criminal offense and may result in a year in prison, depending on the state. Some forms of punishment for misdemeanors include fines, community service, restitution, or probation.

A defendant facing a charge for a misdemeanor may get a jury trial, while an indigent offender may get a lawyer at the expense of the government. However, these depend on the state where the crime occurred. Some states also classify misdemeanors by degree or seriousness of the offense, which is the basis of the severity of the punishment meted.

What is an Infraction?

Infractions or violations are minor offenses that incur fines, but not time in prison. Defendants charged with an infraction can hire a lawyer, but the government does not have to provide one. Traffic violations are the most common offense in this category, but certain states consider traffic offenses as civil and not criminal violations.

These are the main differences among the three types of violations. Understanding their nuances allow one to determine their best course of action and how to avoid incurring them.