People who are involved in the criminal justice system must realize that not all charges are handled in the same manner. Criminal charges are categorized according to the severity of the crime and the penalties. There are three broad categories you need to know of — infractions, misdemeanors and felonies.
An infraction is the least serious of these. These usually don’t carry a jail sentence. If there is a sentence, it is typically a very short one — a few days at most.
Misdemeanors are next on the list. These are usually associated with time in jail of up to a year. However, the court may just order fines, probation, community service and similar penalties for a person who pleads guilty or is convicted of one of these. The lifetime collateral consequences aren’t usually as severe as they are for a person who’s convicted of a felony.
Felony charges are the most serious that you can face. There are a host of different types of felonies. For example, first-degree murder is known as a capital offense because of the severity of the penalties. These charges are associated with lengthy prison sentences if you’re convicted.
In some cases, a person might have alternative sentences when they’re convicted. These can include being placed on probation or being ordered to go through special court programs like Drug Court.
If you are facing a criminal charge, the classification of it impacts what you will have to deal with. You should ensure that you understand the possible penalties and defense options that are available to you.