Throughout the United States, criminal offenses are divided into distinct categories by state criminal systems. Each of these categories is largely defined by the severity of the crime, the amount of jail time it can entail, and the magnitude of any associated fines or other penalties. A crime can be either an administrative infraction, a felony or a misdemeanor. Hiring a New York criminal attorney is essential when situations like this arise.
Felonies, Infractions And Misdemeanors: What’s The Difference?
Felonies are among the most serious of criminal offenses and thus, they entail the most severe punishments. Infractions are usually seen as minor slip-ups and generally result in little more than tickets and fines. Infractions are often traffic violations that result in fees of up to just $100 along with mandatory reimbursement of any related court costs. Misdemeanors, however, fall right in between infractions and felonies. While they aren’t considered to be as serious as felonies like kidnapping, arson, rape, burglary or murder, they can still result in up to one full year in jail and can have a significant and lasting impact on a person’s criminal record.
What Distinguishes Misdemeanors From Felonies?
The most common definition for a misdemeanor is any crime that is punishable by up to one full year in jail. Most commonly, jail time for a misdemeanor will be served in a local county jail rather than in a large, medium to high security prison. Assault, theft and indecent exposure are several examples of common misdemeanors. It is important to note, however, that a crime originally categorized as a misdemeanor may be charged as a felony after a second offense. For instance, a person who has been twice charged with misdemeanor shoplifting could be charged and sentenced for felony shoplifting, if arrested a third-time and if charged with stealing goods that are over a specific value.
Different Classes Of Misdemeanors
In addition to the three, primary classes of criminal offenses, there are also sub-classes within each category. These sub-classes vary state to state. For example, within the state of New York, certain misdemeanors bear the distinction of Class A misdemeanors, which come with a maximum penalty of one full year in jail. In this same state, Class B misdemeanors entail penalties that are not to exceed a total of three months of jail time. How misdemeanors are classified from state to state is largely determined by the impact that the criminal is likely to have on society going forward. This is why many repeat offenders for misdemeanor crimes are often charged as felons.
Among the most common misdemeanor crimes are traffic violations. These can include driving without a license, driving without insurance, speeding or driving while under the influence. Multiple DUI charges that are incurred over time are a very common example of how a misdemeanor crime might become a felony. With these repeat offenders, the potential risks of their criminal activities negatively impacting society increase with each new charge and thus, prosecutors become more likely to seek more severe penalties with each additional offense.