Facing Charges? The Four Levels Of Criminal Offense

There are different levels of criminal offenses that you can be charged with. Here is a quick guide to the different levels of criminal offense that one could be charged with.

#1 Ordinances

The first and lowest level of criminal charge that you can face is an ordinance. Every city, state, and township has its own specific laws that they enforce and in legal terms these laws are referred to as ordinances. Generally, a financial penalty is associated with most ordinance violations and they do not go on your formal criminal record. One rarely needs an attorney to fight against an ordinance charge.

#2 Infraction

The second level of criminal charges that you can face are infractions. Many infractions are considered civil matters and are not considered criminal matters. For example, if you get a ticket for failing to stop at a stop sign, that is generally an infraction. You may have to pay a fine or take a driving class; the consequences of an infraction are generally a fee, a loss of privileges, and perhaps re-education. Even if you plead guilty, civil infractions do not go on your criminal record.

In some states, there may be infractions that are considered criminal matters, which is why it is always best to verify what type of infraction you have with an attorney before settling the issue.

#3 Misdemeanor

The third level of criminal charges is a misdemeanor, and this is where criminal charges start to get more serious. The consequences associated with a misdemeanor are generally more serious than those associated with either an infraction or an ordinance violation.

If you plead guilty to a misdemeanor, there is a good chance you could be sentenced to a short stint in your local county jail and face probation afterwards. A misdemeanor will go on your criminal record, which means that you will face the consequences of a guilty plea long after you have served your time or paid a fine. If any employers or rental agencies run a background check on your, your misdemeanor will most likely show up and could compromise future jobs and housing prospects.

#4 Felonies

The fourth and most serious type of criminal charge that you can face is a felony. A felony conviction almost guarantees that you will spend time in either a state or federal prison, depending on whether the state or federal government brought the charges against you. A felony conviction should always show up on any background checks employers and housing agencies run against you in the future and if you fill out an application and are asked if you have a felony conviction, you will need to check yes. Depending on the state you live in, you may no longer be able to vote if you have a felony conviction. If you have children, a felony conviction could hurt your ability to gain custody of them.

If you are facing a felony conviction, it is a good idea to plead not guilty and then find a quality criminal defense attorney to represent you. You want an attorney who will fight to have the charges against you dismissed or reduced, as a felony conviction can carry serious, life-long consequences that will follow you long after you are out of jail.