Understanding Types of Crimes
Hi, my names Ivan Morse and I'm a criminal defense lawyer. Prior to becoming a criminal defense lawyer, I was an Oakland policeman. Being an Oakland policeman versus being a criminal defense lawyer - there's not a lot of difference between the two. On one side is a criminal defense lawyer, I'm helping people and I'm helping them through the criminal justice system. As a police officer, I also helped people and sometimes I helped people into the criminal justice system.
Today I am going to address the issues of what is the difference between an infraction, a misdemeanor and a felony. A lot of my clients really don't understand that and so I'm going to try to explain it. Basically a crime is defined by the punishment that's imposed.
For example, if you are charged with an infraction, like running a red light or speeding, the maximum punishment that you can receive for that citation is a fine. Because the maximum punishment is a fine, it's considered an infraction. Now when you sign that notice to appear that the police officer hands to you, if you don't show up for that infraction, not showing up is actually a misdemeanor. It's considered a failure to appear. You promised you would show up, you didn't show up. Now, it's a misdemeanor.
Now, what's a misdemeanor? A misdemeanor again is defined by the punishment. For a misdemeanor you can receive up to a year in the county jail and/or a $1,000 fine. So, if the punishment is imprisonment in the county jail then it's considered a misdemeanor.
So, what's a felony? A felony, again, is defined by the punishment that is ascribed to it. A felony is punishable by imprisonment in the state prison and/or a fine, but if the punishment is in the state prison then that is defined as a felony and is considered a more serious offense.
Now some crimes are defined as "wobblers." And a "wobbler" means that the District Attorney has the option of either charging it as a misdemeanor or the D.A. can charge it as a felony. That happens all the time and when I say it happens all the time here's how it happens: Police officers will arrest you and the crime is a "wobbler." Let's say it's 487 of the Penal Code which is considered grand theft. Grand theft is defined as the taking of personal property that has a value of $400 or more.
Now the punishment for grand theft is either imprisonment in the county jail or state prison. If the D.A. ops to charge it as a misdemeanor, the maximum punishment is county jail. If the district attorney ops to charge it as a felony, then the maximum punishment is going to be two years, normally two years, three years or four years in state prison. Usually, they are going to go for the middle term.
So that's the difference and I hope that helps you to understand the difference between an infraction, a misdemeanor and a felony. If you do have any questions, don't hesitate to give me a call. My names Ivan Morse and I offer free consultations. My telephone number is 925-452-4065. Thank you and I wish you the best of luck.