In the Justice System, all criminal offenses are classified into categories that vary from state to state. These offenses are labeled under three commonly used terms: infractions, misdemeanors, and felonies.

Each of these criminal offenses are decided based on the severity of the crime and each hold their own types of consequences. Infractions are the lessor of the charges while felonies hold the highest penalties.


Normally, when one hears the term infraction in law enforcement, they are referring to traffic violations. Infractions are considered small offenses that are not subjected to jail time as a punishment. These are handled quickly in court and are usually resolved by the payment of court costs and fees or fines.

Infractions include: speeding, not wearing a seatbelt, running a stop sign, littering, or noise violations. These infractions do not appear on your criminal record.


These are more severe than infractions and are split into two categories: first degree misdemeanors and second degree misdemeanors. The maximum punishment for these is up to a year in jail and/or approximately $1,000 in fines.

Some crimes that fall into the misdemeanor category are domestic violence, trespassing, petit theft, first time DUI, driving with a suspended license, disorderly conduct, and reckless driving. These criminal offenses can appear on your criminal record.


A felony is the most serious type of crime one can be charged with. They involve harm to be done to another person and are punishable by prison time or even the death penalty in states where it is still in place.

Some sentencing examples that fall under the category of felonies are:

Capital felony (death or life imprisonment without parole)
Life felony (40 years to life)
First degree felony (30 years)
Second degree felony (15 years)
Third degree felony (5 years)

If you or someone you care about are being charged with a crime, theseverity of the specific crime will determine which of these categories it will fall into. Having an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side can increase the chances of having your charge reduced resulting in a lesser punishment.

Contact Moreno & Associates at (760) 631-5330 for Vista, CA office or (619) 422-4885 for Chula Vista office if you would like to discuss your case with a criminal defense attorney.