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Criminal defense 101: categories of crimes

Many people in Upper Marlboro may have a basic understanding of what distinguishes a misdemeanor from a felony, or, if they have watched enough crime shows on television or tuned into the nightly news, they may already know that felony crimes are more serious than misdemeanor crimes. However, it is important to understand the basic categorization of crimes, as courts will treat different levels of crimes differently.

First, there are infractions. In general, infractions are the least serious category of criminal offenses. Usually a person who commits an infraction will be issued a ticket by a police officer and will have to pay a fine. Traffic infractions are common. However, if one is issued a ticket and ignores it, the penalties associated with the infraction may go up.

Misdemeanors are the next category of criminal offenses. In general, the maximum punishment for a misdemeanor is one year in jail. This sentence may be served out, not in a high security institution, but instead in an area county jail. Some states simply determine that criminal offenses that are not listed specifically as felonies or infractions are by default misdemeanors.

Finally, there are felonies. Felonies carry the most severe penalties for criminal offenses. In general, a felony is punishable by at least one year or more in prison. With so much at stake, it is very important that a defendant's Constitutional rights are not infringed upon during the criminal trial process. Burglary, rape and homicide are all examples of felony crimes.

In the end, whether you are charged with an infraction, misdemeanor or felony, it is important to understand the charges against you and the possible penalties. The advice of a criminal defense attorney may be indispensable in such times.

Source: FindLaw, "What Distinguishes a Misdemeanor From a Felony?," accessed March 6, 2017

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