Most have heard of being charged with a misdemeanor, but getting caught speeding usually just results in paying a ticket. Both categories deal with breaking the law but they don't carry the same ramifications. To find out about the difference between infractions, misdemeanors, and the more serious felony charges, read on.
Infractions or Tickets
This is the lowest level of legal wrong-doing when it comes to the judicial system. Infractions are issued at the scene and require the recipient to respond at a later date. Often, you have a choice between paying the infraction fine by mail, in person, or online, or appearing in court to challenge it. Infractions can be issued for driving violations, small quantities of marijuana (in some states), and equipment issues. A driver might be cited for having no working brake lights, for example. In some cases, the infraction can be resolved by satisfying the insufficiency, which might be to bring proof of insurance or a driver's license to the police station. While these offenses seem minor, offenders can be put in jail if they ignore the tickets. It should be noted that serious traffic violations may be arrestable offenses.
Charged With a Misdemeanor
Misdemeanors should not be taken lightly and the way they are handled is more akin to a felony than an infraction. What sets misdemeanors apart from felonies is that they seldom apply to bodily harm. A slew of punishments are available for those convicted but few misdemeanors call for jail time. Some of those include fines, probation, counseling, classes, random drug and alcohol testing, ankle monitoring, ignition interlock devices, and community service. You can lose your driver's license if you are charged with certain misdemeanors.
Felonies Are Serious
Felony charges move things up to a new level – one that can impact an offender's life for many years. Felony charges are reserved for cases of bodily harm and on other factors. Some misdemeanor offenses can be felonies if perpetrated often enough. For example, second or more DUI (driving under the influence) charges may be considered felonies. Other misdemeanor situations that can get elevated include crimes involving a certain amount of money, a certain amount of drugs, or speeding over a certain amount. While felonies carry a lot of weight, they don't always mean incarceration. They can, however, impact you financially and even take away some of your citizen's rights, like voting.
It can be confusing for those charged with a crime to sort out the various possibilities. It's important to let a criminal defense law attorney handle all felonies and many misdemeanor charges.