Crimes in the US are classified into different categories depending on severity. It starts with an infraction then moves up to misdemeanors and then elevates to felonies. It’s important to know the differences, especially between the last two, because how a criminal charge proceeds will depend on how the crime was classified. If you are charged with a felony then the more likely you’ll need the assistance of an experienced criminal defense attorney.
While infractions (also called violations) are punishable by fines, misdemeanors and felonies require jail time. Although a defendant charged with an infraction has the right to an attorney, one is not appointed to them by the government. They don’t even have to face a jury trial. One of the most common forms of infractions are traffic violations, but can also be classified as either a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the severity.
How can a misdemeanor be differentiated from a felony, then?
Misdemeanor vs Felony
A court trial is granted to whoever is charged with a misdemeanor or a felony. An offender who can not afford a criminal defense attorney will be granted an attorney at the expense of the government.
The amount of time a convicted offender needs to spend in jail is what separates a misdemeanor from a felony. The former requires a one-year jail sentence while the latter can last longer than twelve months.
Another factor separating the two is the level of the crime’s severity. A crime can fall under one category but be divided in terms of how serious it was. Here are some examples:
If someone threatened harm to another person, but didn’t carry it out, can be charged with a misdemeanor. But if the threat was indeed carried out and resulted in physical injury or the use of a weapon, then a felony charge can be handed down.
This can be classified as a misdemeanor or a felony depending on who the crime was committed against. If someone shows their private parts in public thereby causing alarm, they will be charged with a misdemeanor. But exposing oneself to a child is considered a felony.
Minor traffic offenses can be considered infractions, but other states would label them as a misdemeanor. When charged, the offender can expect to pay a fine or stay in jail for less than a year. A traffic felony is handed to someone who has caused harm to another person.
The following are considered traffic misdemeanors:
- driving under the influence (drugs or alcohol)
- not having a valid driver’s license
- driving without insurance
Here are what would be considered traffic felonies:
- vehicular homicide
- leaving the scene of an accident
- repeated DUI’s
Generally, a crime is considered a felony when it results in the harming of another person. Arson, kidnapping, murder, and rape are considered felonies and are divided into separate classes to indicate the level of punishment. For instance, a Class A felony carries a life sentence or the death penalty in some states.
Being charged with a misdemeanor or felony will result in fines, time spent in jail, loss of employment, and stress. Hiring a competent criminal defense attorney who specializes in such cases can help limit your risk. Contact us today!