A felony is punishable by at least a year in prison. A misdemeanor is punishable by less than a year in county jail. An infraction is a third type of crime. Infractions are punished differently than misdemeanors or felonies.
What Is an Infraction?
An infraction is the least serious offense a person can commit in the United States. In many jurisdictions, infraction laws are considered civil violations and not crimes.
What Are Some Common Infractions?
Well-known infractions include:
- Parking tickets
- Building code violations
- Disturbing the peace
- Most speeding and moving violations
Will I Be Tried as a Criminal If My Infraction Was Civil?
No because civil cases are handle very differently than criminal cases. In a civil case, the prosecution only has to prove by a preponderance of evidence that a person is guilty of the infraction. In a criminal case, the prosecution must prove the person is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
What Does “Preponderance of Evidence” Mean?
The phrase "preponderance of evidence" refers to the prosecution only having to prove guilt by a greater than 50 percent chance. This is a lower threshold than beyond a reasonable doubt,which requires a 100 percent proof of guilt. It is an easier way of proving guilt than a beyond the reasonable doubt.
Is a Civil Infraction Punishable by Jail Time?
No. A civil infraction is typically punishable by a fine, not time in jail or prison time. A criminal infraction is generally not punished by jail time, but it may be.
Can Infraction Become a Serious Charge?
Yes. If the infraction is not resolved, it can become serious. For instance, parking tickets are punishable by fines. However, multiple parking tickets may result in additional fines and jail time if they remain unpaid.
Should I Discuss Infraction Laws with an Attorney?
If you are facing an infraction, it is in your best interest to discuss the case with a criminal law attorney. The attorney will explain your options and how to proceed with resolving the infraction.