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Infractions, misdemeanors, and felonies

The law is a complex system that is hard to follow and interpret for those who haven't studied it. You may hear legal terms and jargon simply by watching the news or crime TV shows, but what do these terms actually mean?

Defining an infraction

Infractions are considered low-level offenses; they are sometimes called "petty crimes."Infractions will usually involve fines, but typically do not require any jail time. You may be familiar some law violations that are considered infractions:

  • Minor traffic violations
  • Littering
  • Drinking in public
  • Fishing or building without a license

Infractions will start with an issued citation by a law official. If you feel you were issued an unfair citation you have right to appear before a judge and challenge it. In your hearing, you will be in front of a judge and the officer who issued the citation. Here you will be allowed to present your evidence and/or call a witness to testify. You can also hire an attorney if you desire legal counsel. 

Defining a misdemeanor

On the other hand, misdemeanors are more severe than an infraction, but less serious than a felony. They usually require fines and jail time depending of the class of the misdemeanor. There are three classes of misdemeanors, the first being "class three" or a pretty misdemeanor. In North Carolina, this includes:

  • Possession of marijuana-- less than half of an ounce
  • Shoplifting
  • Misuse of 911 or ambulance systems
  • Vandalism
  • The second class is called "class two" or ordinary misdemeanors, which include:
  • Carrying a concealed weapon
  • Reckless driving
  • Simple assault or battery
  • Hazing

Lastly, the third - and most severe class, is called "class one" or gross misdemeanors, which includes:

  • Possession of marijuana-- more than half of an ounce
  • Prostitution
  • Assault to a police officer, school employee or public transportation operator
  • Assault using a deadly weapon

If you are accused of a misdemeanor offense, you have many legal choices to consider with your lawyer. You can choose to plead "not guilty" and request a trial, negotiate a plea deal with the state, or work with your lawyer to have your case dismissed.

Defining a felony

Felonies are the most serious offenses and are typically divided into many classes based on the degree of the offense. North Carolina's classes are categorized alphabetically from A to I, with A being the most severe offense. "Class A" felonies would include:

  • Murder
  • Habitual felonies
  • "Class I" felonies would include:
  • Forgery
  • Terroristic threats

Due to the complexity of the law and justice system, it can be difficult to comprehend not only the degree of an offense but also what steps need to be taken in order to receive a fair trial. When in a legal crisis it is important to have an experienced, thorough and hardworking attorney by your side to ensure a secure and protected future.

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