What is a misdemeanor charge?

Going through the criminal justice system can be overwhelming, and understanding the terminology involved is vital. Any crime in the United States falls under one of three different legal umbrellas: an infraction, a misdemeanor and a felony. Within these umbrella classifications there are several different “levels” of severity.

A misdemeanor is a crime that is not as serious as a felony but carries heavier penalties than an infraction. The most important defining characteristic of a misdemeanor is that it is an offense punishable by no more than one year in jail, as per FindLaw.

How is a misdemeanor different from an infraction?

Infractions generally come with either zero jail sentence or fewer than 5 days. Infractions are the least serious variety of crime. For example, a traffic ticket is an infraction. It is possible for unpaid traffic tickets to lead to more serious consequences, but most of the time dealing with an infraction only involves paying a fine. There is no criminal record associated with an infraction.

On the other hand, misdemeanors do come with a possible jail sentence and will leave a mark on your criminal record.

How is a misdemeanor different from a felony?

Felonies are the most serious variety of crime. Crimes like arson, rape and murder are felonious in nature. A felony charge may leave you with a life sentence in jail or even the death penalty.

Misdemeanors are less serious than felonies. You will not spend more than one year in jail under a misdemeanor charge. It is also likely that you would serve any jail time in a county jail as compared to a prison. Additionally, prosecutors tend to plea bargain more often with misdemeanors as compared to felonies.