There are three primary classifications of criminal offenses: infractions, misdemeanors, and felonies. Each of these offenses is categorized by the severity of the crime, with felonies being the most severe. While each state follows this basic classification system, the specific factors for each offense vary per state.
Infractions are considered petty crimes, which means they are the most minor criminal offenses you can be charged with. Instead of receiving jail time for an infraction, you will typically receive a fine. In most states, you will never have to attend court if you are charged with an infraction. However, if you fail to pay the fine by the given deadline, you may receive a greater charge. If you have many infractions, you can be charged with a misdemeanor or face jail time.
You may receive an infraction for committing the following crimes:
- Violating noise ordinances
- Running a stop sign
- Violating building codes
- Failing to wear a seatbelt
Misdemeanors are a step above infractions. States typically classify misdemeanors into subcategories, either Class 1-Class 4 or Class A-Class D.
All Class 1 misdemeanors are the most severe and carry the most significant penalties. If you receive a misdemeanor charge, you may have to pay a fine, engage in community service, serve time in jail, or be put on probation.
You may be charged with a misdemeanor for committing the following crimes:
- Public intoxication
- Simple assault
- Indecent exposure
Felonies are serious criminal offenses and come with severe penalties, which almost always include time in prison. A typical felony prison sentence may be anything ranging from a year to a life sentence without parole. In some cases, a convicted felon may face execution.
Additionally, convicted felony offenders typically lose some of their civil rights, including the right to vote and to own a firearm. Felons are also not allowed to perform jury duty. Felony convictions are difficult to remove from your record, though they can be expunged in some cases.
You may be charged with a felony for committing the following crimes:
- Drug violations
- Aggravated assault
If you’ve been charged with a misdemeanor or a felony, contact a criminal justice lawyer for help. A lawyer can offer professional legal advice and represent you in court. In some cases, a criminal defense lawyer, like the attorneys at Tuttle Law, P.A., can get you a reduced sentence or help you prove your innocence.