Two Major Categories of Criminal Defense:  Misdemeanor and Felony

What Is A Misdemeanor?

Misdemeanors are offenses with penalties that can include up to one year in jail. The less serious offenses, such as most traffic offenses, are considered infractions for which the penalty is generally under $100.00 fines. These offenses are generally quick and simple to define and resolve.

Most misdemeanor charges are handled by the issuing of a citation from an arresting officer or a complaint filed by a prosecutor. The citation or complaint includes a short statement of the offense with which you are charged, and states whether the offense is an infraction, a misdemeanor, or a felony.

Misdemeanors are divided into four classes (I, II, III, and IV). Class I misdemeanors are most prevalent and most serious of all. Class I misdemeanors include possession of marijuana, petty larceny (shoplifting) assault and battery, and misdemeanor bad check. Also, several serious traffic offenses (DUI, driving on suspended, reckless driving, etc.) are listed as Class I misdemeanors.

What Is A Felony?

Felonies are defined as criminal offenses with maximum penalties greater than one year in prison. Felony charges include murder, malicious wounding, and armed robbery, as well as grand larceny, possession of cocaine or heroin and other serious charges.

The classification of crime as a felony is based upon the maximum sentence provided by law – not by what a court actually imposes.

Individual states and the federal government each have their own criminal codes.  The elements of particular crimes can vary, as can the sentencing classification.