What Type of Crime Is That? Understanding the Terms for Criminal Acts


If you have been accused of violating a law, you might hear some unfamiliar terms being tossed around. Read below to learn more about the three main categories of offenses and what they mean.

Traffic Infractions 

You might not think of speeding as breaking the law but any time you don't follow the rules of the road it's against the law. This is the least serious of the three types of offenses, however, and perpetrators are seldom arrested or jailed for any violations. The offender is usually issued a citation with instructions on either paying the fine or appearing in traffic court and fighting it. If you ignore these citations, though, things can get more serious quickly. A warrant for your arrest can follow if you fail to do anything about a speeding ticket, for example. You should also know that some driving offenses rise above the infraction level and can become felonies. For example, if you are caught driving over the speed limit by a certain amount, you could be charged with reckless driving and that may be a felony offense in some cases.

Misdemeanors

Even though some think a misdemeanor is a minor thing, the sentencing at this level can be surprisingly tough and can even include some jail time. In most cases, misdemeanors involve non-violent crimes of theft, fraud, and driving under the influence (DUI). However, it's amazingly easy to turn a misdemeanor into a more serious charge (a felony) if the circumstances warrant. For example, a normal misdemeanor DUI charge could be ratcheted up to a felony if the accused also caused an accident with fatal injuries.

Felonies

This is the most serious level of crime. With an arrest, some offenders may be charged with a felony that could be later knocked down to a lesser charge. Lack of evidence may result in a felony charge becoming a misdemeanor with a plea bargain as well. Felonies apply to crimes like homicide, kidnapping, rape, etc. If you end up being convicted of a felony, incarceration will be difficult to avoid. Some states further break down felonies into classes or degrees. The details concerning the alleged crime determine whether it's murder in the first degree or just murder. Details like weapons used, the amount of money involved, the age of the victim, and more can also influence the degree of the felony.

If you have been arrested for a crime, seek the help of a criminal defense attorney that understands your charges no matter what they may be.

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