What To Know About Felonies, Infractions, And Misdemeanors

Criminal offenses come in all varieties, and it can be confusing for some to sort the differences. Whether you are just curious or you have been accused of one of the above, it's helpful to understand what those terms mean. Read on to find out more.

What is a Felony?

This is the most serious category of offense and it carries a well-deserved reputation for impacting those convicted with dire punishments. Incarceration, however, is not always a given for felony offenders. With the exception of some mandatory sentencing guidelines, prosecutors and judges often have the discretion to use alternatives to prison. Felonies can be based on bodily harm, such as assault or rape, or it might be based on the number of times a relatively minor crime has been perpetrated by the offender.

For example, if you are convicted of driving under the influence once, it might be a misdemeanor. The second conviction could carry a felony tag. Other classifications that can make a misdemeanor a felony include crimes involving certain sums of money, getting caught with a certain amount of drugs, or the number of counts in question. The use of a weapon can also turn a crime from a misdemeanor into a felony.

What is a Misdemeanor?

This category of offense is considered to be less serious, but a conviction can carry some very stiff sentences. In most cases, misdemeanors don't involve bodily harm. State sentencing guidelines differ, but most misdemeanor convictions won't result in much, if any, jail time. While jail time may not be on the table, offenders can be burdened with financial obligations, probation, random drug testing, classes, counseling, community service, ankle and ignition monitoring, and more.

What is an Infraction?

This final category is often associated with things like traffic tickets and small qualities of marijuana. The only time an offender in this category is likely to be jailed is if they ignore the citation or ticket and a warrant is issued for their arrest. Usually, a fine is the only punishment for infractions. While many driving violations are considered infractions, it is possible for certain violations to be misdemeanors or even felonies. For example, speeding might be an infraction but being caught driving over a certain mile per hour may be considered reckless driving and could result in felony charges.

The categories above don't always correspond with a particular punishment level. It's important to also note that the crime and level of offense you are originally charged with could change after your arrest as more evidence comes to light. If you have been charged with anything other than an infraction, you might need to speak to a criminal defense lawyer so that your Constitutional rights are protected. Find a company like Barry W Engle PC for legal help.