From Infractions to Felonies: Minor to Severe Criminal Charges You Need to Know
Different crimes ultimately result in different legal penalties. An instance of speeding isn’t charged the same as a sexual assault, for example. Therefore, in order to classify crimes based upon severity and consequence, crimes are separated into three distinct categories: infractions, misdemeanors, and felonies. By understanding the difference between the three, you’ll be better equipped to understand your charge risks, as well as your need for counsel.
Don’t misunderstand: even a minor infraction is still a violation of criminal law. You can make your position a lot worse by treating the accusation too lightly. If you ignore a summons or carelessly “forget” to pay a fine, you can find that your infraction case has become a waking nightmare.
Infractions are considered the lowest criminal charge out of the three classifications. In fact, Washington courts don’t recognize infractions as crimes per se, but rather violations of the law. For instance, many traffic violations such as speeding or jaywalking are considered to be infractions and are dealt with by ticketing or fining offenders.
Misdemeanors are “the middle of the road,” so to speak, when it comes to criminal law. They’re crimes that are punished more severely than infractions but less so than felonies. The Misdemeanor Branch handles crimes that are punishable by fines up to $5,000 or imprisonment for up to one year (gross misdemeanor)—but most misdemeanor imprisonments last less than 90 days. Some examples of misdemeanors would be assault (without excessive damage), possession of an illegal drug, theft, and destruction of property.
Felonies are the most severe crime charges. A felony is any type of crime that could potentially result in a prison sentence that exceeds one year. Examples of felonies would be murder, assault with intent to kill, arson, kidnapping, sexual assault, and drug dealing (second or subsequent offense).
The Help You Need to Avoid Getting Stampeded by a Confusing Charge
Since the United States Congress sets the penalties for all federal criminal acts, it has the power to decide which criminal acts are felonies and which ones are misdemeanors. However, each individual State legislature makes those determinations for crimes that specifically violate state laws. This means that when you’re charged with a crime, there is a potential for a cross-over where both state and federal jurisdictions can charge you with a misdemeanor or felony. For this purpose, it’s important to have a helping hand to guide you through the process and make sure your rights are being upheld.
The McDaniel Law Group, PLLC is that helping hand.
Fill out our contact form, or come see us at our office located at 1920 L. Street, NW Suit 303 in D.C. for a free consultation. With our extensive knowledge and experience we can help you build a strong defense while protecting your rights. Call now and avoid getting blindsided by criminal charges!