Difference between Infraction, Misdemeanor, and Felonies

It is common for most people to go about their lives without having the slightest idea of the law and the different types of offenses, which is usually the leading cause of arrests. Having an idea of what constitutes a particular offense and the repercussions is vital in today’s society, especially with different states having their laws. There are three basic categories of minor and serious offenses that everyone needs to familiarize themselves with: felonies, misdemeanors, and infractions. Understanding these three helps you know the magnitude of the crime committed and how to prepare if you are the victim or the perpetrator.

Infractions and penalties

These are crimes that usually don’t have jail time but have the possibility of a fine. However, they are not serious offenses: jaywalking, littering, public intoxication, and traffic offenses. Different terms are used to refer to such crimes depending on the state one is in. These terms may include petty misdemeanors, petty crimes, and violations.

All state laws consider infractions small offenses that can either be punished by a fine set by the court or several hours of community service, depending on the state in which the offense has been committed. These crimes cannot be punished by jail time; however, different states vary where the line between infractions and misdemeanors lies.

Misdemeanors and penalties

This type of crime lies between an infraction and a felony, which means that they are serious to an extent. However, unlike infractions, misdemeanors are punishable by both jail time and fines. There are three categories of misdemeanors: petty misdemeanors, ordinary misdemeanors, and gross misdemeanors. Petty misdemeanors usually carry a sentence not exceeding six months or a cash fine of $500.

The fine and jail term increase from petty to ordinary and then gross. Since misdemeanors are considered moral crimes, a person convicted of these crimes will likely miss certain opportunities such as employment and academic scholarships.

Felony and penalties

A felony is a criminal offense punishable by a year or more in jail due to its violent nature and negative impact on society. Felonies are classified according to the seriousness of the crime, but this may differ from one state to another. Most states usually classify felonies according to the magnitude of the crime, with class 1 or class A being the highest.

Many types of crimes fall into this category, such as drug trafficking, violent offenses, sex crimes, white-collar crimes, and property crimes. Unfortunately, unlike infractions and misdemeanors that can be erased depending on the circumstances, felonies are extremely difficult to have expunged from a person’s record.

Knowing the difference between the three categories of offenses is important, especially if you are in a different state and are unfamiliar with the laws. It also helps a person assess the magnitude of the crime and determine the next cause of action. A serious crime will prompt law enforcement involvement, while a lesser crime can be solved through mediation if there’s a chance.