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Criminal charges can be separated into three categories: infractions, misdemeanors, and felonies. The different classifications are separated by the seriousness of the offense and the amount of punishment given to a person found guilty of the charge.
Felony charges are the most severe charges. They are the result of being accused of a severe crime. Being found guilty of a felony charge is punishable by incarceration of six or more months in prison. In some cases, the guilty person faces life in prison without parole and or the death penalty. Every type of felony crime carries a minimum and maximum possible sentence. Most states have different classifications of crimes and offenses that result in felony charges. You can read more about the type of felony convictions and punishments here.
Misdemeanor charges are not as severe as felony charges. Oftentimes, the severity of a crime determines if it is a misdemeanor crime or felony crime. For example, an assault charge can be either a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the severity of the alleged assault. Likewise, being charged with the same crime multiple times, can upgrade a misdemeanor crime charge to a felony charge. An example of this is being convicted multiple times of a DUI offense. Most states have different classifications of misdemeanors and offenses that result in misdemeanor charges. You can read more about the type of misdemeanor convictions and punishments here.
An infraction is less serious than a misdemeanor. An infraction does not carry any jail time. Additionally, the ramifications of an infraction conviction are only financial in nature. Examples of infractions include speeding, littering, driving without a seatbelt, etc. Infraction charges are not resolved trial by a jury; instead, a judge decides the facts.
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