What is The Difference Between a Misdemeanor and a Felony in California?

all-pro-bail-bondsAll legal charges are serious, but for anyone facing potential jail time in California, it’s important to be aware of the details surrounding the charges being faced. There are three main categories when it comes to legal charges: felony, misdemeanor and infraction.

What is an Infraction?

When it comes to getting in trouble with the law, an infraction comes with the least amount of negative consequences. An infraction is not considered a criminal offense, and it therefore never comes with the possibility of jail time or probation. Infractions will appear on a person’s driving records and local police records but not the Department of Justice criminal records. With an infraction, the most common consequence is having to pay some sort of fee.

Common offenses that result in infractions include: speeding tickets, red-light violations and littering. There are some situations that can result in either an infraction or a misdemeanor, depending on the circumstances. For example, if a person is given a ticket for disturbing the peace due to playing music too loudly at a party, it would likely result in an infraction. If a person is charged with disturbing the peace because of running through the middle of a shopping mall screaming and scaring people, he or she may face more serious charges.

What is a Misdemeanor?

If a crime is slightly more serious but not deserving of more than a year in jail as punishment, it is considered a misdemeanor. That said, many misdemeanors do not result in jail time, especially if the person being charged does not have a prior criminal history. Misdemeanors most commonly result in hefty fines and time spent on probation, but because the charges are more serious than infractions, the defendant is guaranteed the right to an attorney and jury trial.

There may be other consequences that can come from being charged with a misdemeanor. If a person isn’t yet a United States citizen, a conviction may have a negative impact on the chances of becoming one. It could also impact a work visa and result in deportation, depending on the circumstances. United States citizens who are convicted of drug offenses or DUI charges may face losing their driver’s license as a result. If the misdemeanor crime involved any type of violence, such as a bar fight, the defendant may lose the right to carry a firearm for the next decade.

What is a Felony?

Felonies are the most serious crimes that a person can commit. They are punishable by a minimum of one year in prison, but most felonies come with the risk of a much longer sentence. Like misdemeanors, they also come with expensive fees and the possibility of long-term criminal probation. A felony defendant is guaranteed the right to a jury trial and legal representation. Cases are often complex and legal proceedings may go on for months if not years. Felony charges can sometimes result in a life spent in prison, so they are never something to take lightly.

If a person finds themselves arrested, the first step is to make bail, get out of jail and find a qualified attorney. If help is needed in accomplishing this, a reputable bail bonds company should be called upon.

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