Ask an Attorney: Infraction vs. Misdemeanor

Our Instagram follower, @skdudee asks: “I’ve seen some people get infraction while others get misdemeanor for the same crime. Is it up to the officer to decide what type of charge a person gets?”

Our answer:

The circumstances determine whether a person is charged with an infraction or a misdemeanor. Both are criminal offenses, and the severity of the act is supposed to be what determines whether it is treated as an infraction or a misdemeanor. An infraction, such as a speeding ticket, is considered less serious and typically results in a modest fine or points on your driving record. A misdemeanor, like shoplifting, is considered more serious, usually results in a higher fine, and can carry jail time as well. 

An infraction is the least serious type of offense and is treated as such. An infraction does not necessitate probation, which could affect a person’s employment. In fact, infractions are excluded when employers conduct a background check due to the insignificance of the offense. An infraction is the same level of crime as a parking ticket or having an expired dog license. 

On the other hand, a misdemeanor carries a punishment of up to a year in jail and fines of up to $1,000. Examples of misdemeanors include driving under the influence, domestic violence, and shoplifting, as previously stated. If you are convicted of a misdemeanor you will have a criminal record.

Some factors that are taken into consideration when a governing authority decides whether to treat an act as an infraction or a misdemeanor is how the behavior is perceived and the client’s criminal history.  

Each state specifies in its statutes how different acts are to be classified. This means that there are times when the same offense would be treated differently in different states. A person might receive a different charge or punishment depending on where the offense took place. 

If you have further questions about infractions and misdemeanors, or if you are looking to consult with a criminal attorney, our platform connects clients to the right attorneys based on clients’ budgets.  All attorneys on our platform offer unbundled services, such as single consultations, for flat rates. Visit for more information.   

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