Learn the Difference Between Infractions, Misdemeanors, and Felonies

Navigating the criminal justice system is usually a hurdle if you are charged with a serious crime. One of the important steps you can take is to understand the criminal charges you are facing and the possible consequences.

Crimes are classified into different categories in all the states. The known categories are felony, misdemeanor, and infraction. The categories are based on the seriousness of the offense.

Look for an expert criminal defense attorney who can help you understand the type of crime you are facing and the possible outcomes.

Let’s learn the differences between infractions, misdemeanors, and felonies.


Infractions, also known as violations, are petty offenses committed and punishable by fines and not jail time. For infractions, the law sets a minimum and maximum fine for the accused.

Since people accused of infractions cannot be sent to jail or probation, the defendants usually don’t have the right to an attorney or the right to a jury trial. The defendant can hire an attorney independently, as the government doesn’t have a duty to hire one for them. Besides, the prosecutor doesn’t represent the government in infraction cases, as most offenses are traffic crimes.

For example, a cab driver gets a speeding ticket. After the officer testified against the driver, the judge concluded that the driver was speeding. The driver’s punishment is a fine.


Misdemeanors are criminal charges that last up to a year in jail in a number of states. Some states changed the one-year jail term to 365 days to prevent the accused from being deported. Other forms of punishment for misdemeanors include fine payment, community service, probation, and restitution.

Some states further classify misdemeanors by degree or class. Others define them by their severity as an aggravated misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor. Defendants in misdemeanor crimes are entitled to legal representation and a jury trial. If a defendant can’t pay attorney fees, the court has to appoint one at the government’s expense.

If one is convicted of an assault carrying a minimum $1,000 fine or jail term of six months, then the assault is a misdemeanor.


Felonies are serious criminal offenses that carry sentences ranging from one year to lifetime imprisonment. Some states also award capital felonies defendants with a death sentence. Some other penalties for felonies are probation, community service, fines, and restitution. When sent to prison, the accused can be supervised upon release or when on parole.

Felony crimes involve the threat of harm or serious harm to victims. It also involves offenses like fraud schemes or white-collar crimes. The laws also elevate some misdemeanor offenses to felony in cases of repeat offenders. Most states also subdivide felonies by degree or class.

Accused persons charged with felonies have a right to legal representation and a jury trial. If the defendant can’t pay attorney fees, the court has to appoint one at the government’s expense.

If a defendant had prior offenses like two shoplifting convictions before another arrest for a shoplifting offense. Then, the state allows the prosecutor to charge the shoplifting offense as a felony if the stolen merchandise amounts to some money and the defendant has prior shoplifting convictions.


Depending on your case, you may need an attorney to help argue your case. Understand that criminal cases have long-lasting consequences, even if you don’t factor in the sentence the judge will impose on you.

You need to look for an expert criminal defense attorney who assures a better result even if they can’t avoid conviction. The attorney will protect your rights, explain the possible outcomes, and weigh the probable results of your case.


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