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What are the differences between misdemeanors and felonies?

California courts often separate crimes into infractions, misdemeanors and felonies. If you have been charged with a crime, it is important to know which category your charges fall under so that you and your attorney can come up with a strong criminal defense strategy to fight these charges.

Infractions are typically minor crimes, such as traffic violations, that police officers generally write tickets for. There is generally very little court time involved, if any, and it is rare that you will have to pay anything more than a small fine. However, failure to pay these small fines in a timely manner can result in additional penalties.

Misdemeanors are more serious than infractions, but not as serious as felonies. While both misdemeanors and felonies can result in jail time, the jail time for a misdemeanor is generally less than one year in the local county jail. Jail time for felonies can vary depending on the severity of the crime, but usually result in a jail sentence more than one year. In many cases, felony charges are for severe crimes such as murder, burglary or rape. In addition to jail time, consequences of both misdemeanors and felonies may also include probation, community service, hefty fines and restitution.

The charges you are facing may seem minor, but even minor crimes can result serious consequences. In addition to legal consequences, you may also face long-lasting consequences in your everyday life. For example, many people with felony convictions find it difficult to find employment and maintain a good reputation in the community. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help protect your rights and defend you against the charges you are facing to minimize potential penalties.

Source: FindLaw, "What Distinguishes a Misdemeanor From a Felony?," accessed on March 18, 2018

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