Felonies, Misdemeanors, and Infractions: Know Where You Stand

When it comes to classifying crimes, the three main categories are infractions, misdemeanors and felonies. Which category the offense is going to fall under depends on the seriousness of the crime.

We will take a look at each of the three categories closely and the consequences that each of this can have on the offender.


Infractions are considered as light violations of the law and in cases like this, there is no danger of jail time or probation.

Infractions are usually settled by quick court cases where the defendant goes before a judge, yet no jury is present. If the defendant is found guilty, they will be ordered to pay a fine in most cases.

While the defendant has the right to contact an attorney, due to the light nature of the offense many decide to face the charges themselves.

An example of an infraction might be getting a civil traffic ticket.


Misdemeanors are more serious offenses than infractions and while the defendant is likely to be ordered to pay a fine, jail time from up to a year is in the picture.

Misdemeanor crimes in Arizona are separated into three classes: 1, 2 and 3, with 3 being the least severe offense and 1 being the most serious.

If a person is convicted for a class 3 misdemeanor offense, they could pay up to $500 in fines and face up to a year in prison. An example of one such offense is criminal speeding.

Class 2 misdemeanor charges are pressed against people who have committed more serious offenses such as carrying a concealed weapon or disorderly conduct. A person convicted for such crimes can face up to four months in prison and over $750 fines.

What’s important to note here is that if a person committed a class 3 offense yet has previous record of other offenses might face charges as they have committed a class 2 offense.

Class 1 misdemeanors are the most serious offenses that fall in this category, such as reckless driving, driving under the influence of drug or alcohol and driving while having a suspended driver’s license. The penalty for class 3 offenses are much more serious – fines of up to $2.5000 and up to six months jail time.


Felonies are the most serious crimes that one can commit and the punishment varies depending on the type of the offense.

For less serious crimes such as marijuana possession, convictions might be overturned and lowered to class 1 misdemeanor with the help of an experienced attorney.

However, for more serious cases such as assaults, illegal use of firearm or robberies, the penalties can be much higher and jail time can be hard to avoid.

What Can an Attorney Do For You?

In cases where an individual can be held accountable for misdemeanor or felony, contacting an experienced defense attorney is the first step towards building a good case and minimizing the damage.

Depending on the seriousness of the crime, the attorney can consider all possible options and build a case to minimize the charges that are going to be pressed against the offender or even reduce the charges to a lower class offense.

If your offense is a “wobbler” defense, that means that there is room for negotiation and that a good attorney can fight for the best outcome of a case that can be classified both as a felony or misdemeanor.

Only the right attorney who has experience in criminal law can work with you to minimize the penalty that you will get and negotiate a plea bargain that you will be happy with.

Liz S. Coyle is the Director of Client Services for JacksonWhite Attorneys at Law. She also serves as a paralegal for the Family Law Department. She is responsible for internal and external communications for the firm.