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Misdemeanor Versus Felony in California the state of California, criminal charges are broken into three types. Unfortunately for those charged with a crime, many do not know the difference between these types. Knowing what you are charged with and its classification can help you determine your best course of action as you move forward with the legal process.

The three types of charges in California are infractions, misdemeanors and felonies.


An infraction is a criminal charge that does not carry the possibility of probation or jail time. The only punishment handed out for an infraction is a fine and, in some cases, surcharges and fees. Common infractions in the state of California are littering citations, speeding tickets, seatbelt violations and failure to stop at a stop sign. Because there is no threat of jail time, people charged with an infraction do not have the right to a jury trial. Any person who wishes to fight an infraction will do so in front of a judge.


A misdemeanor is a crime that is punishable by no more than one year in county jail. There are fines associated with misdemeanors that will total no more than $1,000 in most cases (the exception being aggravated misdemeanors, which carry fines up to $2,000). People charged with a misdemeanor may choose to hire an attorney and have their case heard by a jury. Misdemeanor cases are typically resolved in less than a year. If a person decides to fight their charges in court, they will proceed with an arraignment, a pretrial and then a trial.


A felony is a crime that can have a convicted person spending at least one year in a state prison. Felonies also carry fines and probation. Because felonies are typically serious, those charged with such crimes have the right to an attorney and to a trial by jury. Felony cases can last for several months or more. In the most serious cases, a felony case can last for several years. Persons charged with a felony will appear at an arraignment, a pretrial, a preliminary hearing and a trial.

Being charged with any type of crime is a serious issue. Any person charged with a crime in California is urged to consult with an attorney at their first opportunity. If you have been criminally charged, reach out to our experienced team of attorneys. We will review the details of your arrest and charges at no cost to you and advise you of your options.

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Stephen Levine, is a Board Certified Specialist in Criminal Defense — an honor achieved by only the top criminal law attorneys in California. Mr. Levine has over 40 years of experience in criminal defense and family law serving Southern California, and is a highly regarded Super Lawyer as well as AV Rated attorney.