In each state if the United States, crimes are divided into several different categories. The most common categories are “felony”, misdemeanor” and “infraction”. The distinction among them is the seriousness of the crime, the kind of penalties and maximum time of punishment. And the state legislators are those who decide on crime classification.
Infraction, or sometime called violation or infringement, is act or instance of breaking a law or regulation and it is the least serious type of convictions. Commonly, if someone is caught doing any petty public wrong by the police, he will be handed a ticket and punished by fines, not a jail time. Speeding, jaywalking, littering citations and a controlled-amount drug trafficking charges in some states are listed as infractions. Traffic offenses are the most common form of infringement and most states consider them to be civil offenses.
Nevertheless, although infractions usually cannot lead to a jail sentence or probation and it involve very little or even no time in court, if you do not pay the fines, the law will automatically increase the range of fines and potential penalties, which may result in jail time. Most importantly, infractions do not appear on your criminal records.
Misdemeanor is the more serious type of crime than infraction. Misdemeanors are typically punishable by up to a year in jail according to most states’ law. Considering the seriousness of the convictions ant their no effect on civil liberties, punishment for misdemeanors can be a fine, probation, community service, indemnity or a local county jail sentence.
The examples of misdemeanors include trespassing, vandalism, public intoxication, petty theft, disorderly conduct and simple assault without using weapon. A person who is charged the first time for several types of drug possession may be regarded as convicted of misdemeanor.
Felony is the most serious type of convictions. Felony convictions result in greater than one year of prison sentences. Felonies are crimes involving physical violence that do harm or threat of harm to victims. In addition to, felonies can also include white-collar crimes and fraud schemes. Felonies include various classifications such as: murder, rape, arson, and sale of illegal drugs, grand theft and kidnapping.
Convicting the crimes as assault, theft and indecent exposure may be charged as being misdemeanors or felonies in different situations depends on the severity of the crimes. If simple assault is misdemeanor, assault resulted in bodily injury or involving weapon would be considered a felony. In the same way, a theft of $500 or more is considered to be a felony, and the crime of indecent exposure towards a child rises to the level of felony.
So, unlike infractions that anyone may easily have once in their lifetime, misdemeanors and felonies are at a higher level of crime. After understanding what are a felony and a misdemeanor, let’s get to know more about the difference between these two types of crimes.
Felony vs misdemeanor
The best way to distinguish a felony and a misdemeanor is the severity of the conduct. Both of them can commit against people, property or the authorities, yet a felony is a more dangerous crime than a misdemeanor and carries much higher penalties. Misdemeanors usually include non-violent crimes, while almost all felonies comprise physical harm to the victims. There are some forms of felonies that are non-violent, but they leave much more greatly bad effect on the society than the misdemeanors.
The difference in the seriousness of the crimes leads to the difference in the punishment for misdemeanors and felonies. The most serious misdemeanor carries a fine up to $10,000, especially in Alaska, and the average maximum fines is about $5,000 in most other states. Meanwhile, felony charges sometimes also result in fines, but the maximum amount of money a felon have to pay is much higher, which may up to $100,000 for those who facing with the class A felony charges. Misdemeanors can result in probation or jail sentence as well. In case that incarceration is ordered by the court, the jail sentencing for a misdemeanor can only be set for up to 12 months, according to the law of most states. Besides, the convicted of a misdemeanor will serve time in a county jail, not a state prison. In contrary, if felons receive a jail sentence, they are placed in state prison for at least 1 year and the maximum is life imprison.
In brief, if you are accused of a felony or misdemeanor, you should learn to understand clearly about your situation, your rights and punishments. You may need legal assistance to help prove your innocence or negotiate a lesser charge or sentence.