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Criminal classifications vary from state to state. To make a clear distinction, specific criminal offenses are put in specific categories. You may be most familiar with “felony” and “misdemeanor”, but there is also a category called “infraction”. The classification decision depends on the level of intensity of the criminal offense in question. Infractions are not nearly as serious as felonies are, and we will discuss the difference of each.

What is an Infraction?

An infraction is simply a violation. Individuals who are guilty of an infraction, in most cases, are given fines as punishment. Jail time is not an option; therefore neither is an option for a trial. If you are charged with an infraction, you may still want to seek an attorney but you must seek one on your own, it will not be court appointed. The most common infraction is a traffic violation, which very rarely have government representatives present, and do not require them.

What is a misdemeanor?

Unlike infractions, misdemeanors can be punishable by jail time, but no more than a full year. Misdemeanors are also punishable buy fines, probation, and restitution, and sometimes all at once. Like a felony, defendants have a right to a jury trial and can be appointed legal representation if they wish to have an attorney. There are more classifications of misdemeanors that also depend on the extremity of the offense.

What is a felony?

Felonies are the most serious of the three classifications. Felonies range from physical harm on another individual to fraud. Felonies can potentially carry severe punishment, but sometimes no jail time at all. If someone is sentenced to anything more than a year, they have been convicted of a felony. The same rights apply for felony-level offenses as they do misdemeanors, and there are classifications that make determining the punishment easier to understand.

While it may be easy to understand your charge, it is not always easy to understand the punishment for the crime. If you or someone you know has been convicted of a criminal offense, it is best to speak with a skilled criminal defense attorney. The right attorney can review the facts of your case and help give you a better understanding of your right and a potential “worse case scenario”. Criminal defense attorneys typically offer free consultations as well, so if you have any questions or concerns regarding your charge or sentence, speak with a Dekalb County attorney immediately.

Thanks to Andrew R. Lynch, P.C. for their insight into criminal defense and classification.