Defining Illegal Behavior: Felonies Vs. Misdemeanors Vs. Infractions

The common criminal law abolished by most states is defining illegal behavior depending on the severity of the crime. A criminal offense may be a felony, misdemeanor or an infraction.  Let’s try to explain each type of the offense and make difference between them.


Felonies are considered to be the most serious class of offense throughout the United States because they typically violate the moral standards of the community. Felonies are usually punishable by fines, imprisonment in a state prison lasting more that one year or both. Felonies include:

  • terrorism
  • murder
  • arson
  • kidnapping
  • rape
  • treason and others.


A misdemeanor is a criminal offense that is less serious than a felony but more serious than an infraction. It is a crime of low seriousness. Generally misdemeanors are punishable by imprisonment in a local jail for less than a year, fines or both. Many states separate misdemeanors into:

  1. gross misdemeanors
  2. ordinary misdemeanors
  3. petty misdemeanors

infractionsAn infraction, also called petty offense, consists in violation of an administrative regulation, ordinance and/or a municipal code. They are the less serious class of criminal offenses. Typically infractions are punishable only by fines (no jail time). Traffic violations, shoplifting, disorderly conduct or noise violations can be examples of infractions.

It is important to remember that state laws where the crime took place will govern your lawsuit so hiring a lawyer who is licensed in that state is very important. On Legal Bistro you can find many experienced criminal lawyers who will compete to handle your case. You have nothing to lose with us!

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