Crimes are classified into three basic categories:
Felonies (Fines, Restitution, Probation, County Jail, State Prison, Parole
Misdemeanors (Fines, Restitution, Probation, County Jail)
Infractions (Fines, Restitution)
Felonies are the most serious of criminal acts punishable by imprisonment in state prison for more than one year. The following are examples of crimes that are classified as felonies: assault and battery, arson, burglary, sale and/or distribution of drugs, grand theft, robbery, murder, and rape. With proper and effective representation, some felonies can be reduced to misdemeanors or infractions.
A misdemeanor is a criminal offense that is punished less severely than a felony. The penalties for a misdemeanor include a fine and/or incarceration of less than one year in county jail. A misdemeanor conviction normally would not result in the loss of a civil right, but may result in the loss of a privilege (e.g., a professional license) when the misdemeanor is related to the privilege in question. For instance, a taxi driver who suffers a misdemeanor conviction for reckless driving may lose his or her taxi driver license.
An infraction is any violation of an administrative regulation, municipal code, city or state ordinance, or traffic rule. Infractions are sometimes referred to as petty offenses. They generally are not considered criminal offenses and as such are not punishable by incarceration. If the offense that constitutes an infraction does not carry a sentence of more than six months, trial by jury is not necessary.
If you have been accused of an infraction, be advised of the following:
You must be charged within six months after the act has occurred
You do not have to submit to booking or fingerprinting
You have the right to an automatic pardon three years after your conviction
A lawyer with good negotiation skills may be able to reduce your felony or misdemeanor to an infraction.
A wobbler is an offense that can be prosecuted as a felony or a misdemeanor. Whether a crime falls into one category or the other depends on the potential punishment. An offense that is punished by imprisonment of over a year is usually prosecuted as a felony. An offense that is punished by imprisonment of a year or less is usually prosecuted as a misdemeanor. With proper legal representation, a wobbler can be reduced to a misdemeanor.