Misdemeanors vs. Felonies vs. Infractions in California
Guide to California’s Criminal Charge Categories
In California, criminal offenses fall into three main categories: infractions, misdemeanors, and felonies. Each category carries distinct penalties and legal implications. Let’s break them down.
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What is an infraction in California?
What are the penalties for an infraction in California?
- Maximum Fine: Infractions are punishable by a maximum fine of $250 (although certain traffic infractions can carry fines of up to $500).
- No Jail Time: Unlike misdemeanors, infractions do not result in actual jail sentences.
What is a misdemeanor in California?
Misdemeanors are more serious offenses than infractions. They can result in imprisonment and/or fines. Misdemeanor crimes are further broken down into standard misdemeanors and gross misdemeanors, which are more serious offenses.
Examples of California misdemeanors include petty theft, shoplifting less than $950 worth of goods, and simple assault.
What are the penalties for a misdemeanor in California?
- Maximum Jail Sentence: Misdemeanors can lead to a maximum jail sentence of six months in the county jail.
- Maximum Fine: The maximum fine for misdemeanors is $1,000.
What is a gross misdemeanor in California?
Gross misdemeanors are a more serious subcategory of misdemeanors. Some examples are reckless driving causing injury, and domestic violence (non-felony level).
What are the penalties for a gross misdemeanor in California?
- Maximum Jail Sentence: Gross misdemeanors can result in up to 364 days in the county jail.
- Higher Fines: Fines for gross misdemeanors can exceed $1,000.
What is a felony in California?
Felonies are the most serious crimes, carrying severe punishment. Examples of felonies are murder, robbery, and burglary.
What are the penalties for a felony in California?
- Prison Time: Felonies can lead to imprisonment in state prison, potentially up to life in prison.
- Probation: Felons may also face up to two years of probation.
- Fines: Felonies may involve substantial fines of thousands of dollars.
What is a wobbler crime in California?
Some offenses are considered wobblers, meaning they can be charged as either misdemeanors or felonies based on specific circumstances. The decision to charge as a misdemeanor or felony depends on factors such as severity and the defendant’s criminal history. Examples of wobblers include certain drug offenses and theft crimes.