Different Levels of Criminal Offenses

The United States criminal code (rightfully) differentiates offenses based on their severity. In some cases, this is defined by violence or injury perpetrated against an individual. In others, it has to do with the wide-reaching negative impact of the action committed. Here are the three major categories of crimes, and critical distinctions between them.


An infraction is the least serious level of criminal offense, and unlikely to require representation by a felony lawyer Jacksonville NC. Infractions (or “violations,” as they are sometimes called) are crimes that are punishable by a fine, and not the possibility of jail time. For example, most traffic offenses that don’t result in property damage or injury are infractions. If you should choose to not seek legal counsel (or if you cannot afford it), the court is not required to appoint a lawyer on your behalf to address an infraction.


Misdemeanors can carry punishments of both jail time of up to one year and/or a fine, depending on their severity, the jurisdiction in which they are committed, and a judge’s discretion. Simple assault, theft (below a certain dollar amount), and most DUI offenses are common misdemeanors. Misdemeanors are graded from “simple” to “gross.” It is wise to secure legal representation for a serious, gross misdemeanor. In most cases, you are entitled to a court-appointed attorney to represent you if you cannot afford one while charged with a misdemeanor.


A felony is a very serious charge that can carry with it an extended prison sentence upon conviction. Armed robbery, weapons charges, and most types of domestic abuse are considered felonies. In most states, convicted felons forfeit their second amendment rights to own firearms, as well as their voting rights. In felony cases, the court is required to appoint representation if you cannot afford it. Due to the severity of the charges and potential sentence, it is extremely unwise to waive your right to an attorney when facing a felony case.