Criminal law classification of charges and penalties

On Behalf of | Sep 11, 2014 | Criminal Defense |

Anytime a Memphis resident turns on the news, a crime of some nature is mentioned. So what do all of those criminal charges mean? In the following paragraphs we will break down the three general types of criminal charges that a person may face.

There are three general types of criminal charges. These include infractions, misdemeanors and felonies. Infractions are the mildest of crimes committed. Infractions, which some areas also referred to as petty offenses, is usually a violation of a city code, municipal code or an ordinance. It can also refer to some traffic rules in certain states. Many states punish an infraction as a civil matter with fines and not with incarceration.

The next level of criminal charges are classified as misdemeanors. Misdemeanors are less serious than a felony and are punishable by a fine, jail time in a local jail or both. There are different types of misdemeanors depending on the severity of the case. Although the laws vary from state to state, in general the three classes of misdemeanors may include petty misdemeanors, gross misdemeanors and ordinary misdemeanors. Typically the courts have flexibility in what charges and sentences they can assign to a defendant.

The most severe level of criminal charges is a felony. A felony can include murder, rape, robbery, arson, treason and kidnapping, among other charges. These are typically the crimes that are covered by the local news. Felonies are usually punished by incarceration of at least a year along with fines. Many times the incarceration is in a certain prison such as a state prison and not a local jail. Repeat offenders with a criminal record often receive a tougher sentence.

Source:, “Classifications of Crimes,” accessed on Sept. 8, 2014


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