Infractions, Misdemeanors, and Felonies: Know the Difference

Everyone knows that misdemeanors are not as serious an offense as a felony.  While felonies do generally mean more jail time, a misdemeanor may not just be the slap on the wrist that we may expect.


An infraction, or citation, is the violation of a rule or law.  There is no jail time if you commit an infraction; there is merely a fine.  You may hire an attorney to represent you but because there is no possibility of jail time, you do not have the right to a jury trial as you would if you had committed a misdemeanor or felony, nor is there a prosecutor.  Typically, defendants simply pay the fine. An infraction does not appear on your criminal record.

The most common type of infraction is a traffic violation although violations that are considered more serious such as driving on a suspended license, driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or reckless driving will be charged as a misdemeanor or felony.


Misdemeanors are more serious than infractions but not as serious as felonies.  Generally, they’re crimes that may carry up to one year of jail time and often a fine is imposed as well.  Depending on the crime, the sentence may also include paying restitution to the victim, probation, or community service.  If a defendant is found guilty of a misdemeanor and sentenced to jail, the term will most likely be served at the local county jail. 

Because there is such a vast array of misdemeanors, they are divided into several classes with different sentences:

  • Class A misdemeanor – one year or less, but more than six months;
  • Class B misdemeanor – six months or less, but more than thirty days; or
  • Class C misdemeanor – thirty days or less, but more than five days.

The sentence is often served in county jail but can be served in prison.  Some examples of misdemeanors include simple assault, petty theft, and disorderly conduct.  Unlike infractions, misdemeanors do show up on your criminal record and stay there for life.


Felonies are the most serious crimes.  Depending on the circumstances, a felony conviction may not result in jail time but it’s highly likely that it will and that the sentence will be carried out in state or federal prison. 

Like misdemeanors, the federal government breaks felonies into several classes:

  • Class A felony – life imprisonment or the death penalty;
  • Class B felony – twenty-five or more years;
  • Class C felony – less than twenty-five years, but more than ten years;
  • Class D felony – less than ten years, but more than five years; or
  • Class E felony – less than five years, but more than one year.

Felonies cover a large range of crimes but some examples are murder, rape, kidnapping, and arson but also include white-collar crimes like fraud and embezzlement.  Some cases may be tried as a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the severity of the crime which can give attorneys some wiggle room when making plea deals. Felony convictions remain on your criminal history for life.      

Because both misdemeanors and felonies can result in jail time, if you’ve committed either one, you may be offered bail instead of awaiting your trial in jail.  If you have been arrested for a misdemeanor or a felony, Mercy Bail Bonds can help. We’re available 24/7 to answer your call and to begin the bail bond process as soon as possible and get you or your loved one out of jail, sometimes in just a few hours.  Call Mercy today at (727) 856-7775.