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About Criminal Classifications

Feb 4th 2019 at 4:45 PM

There are three primary criminal classifications. Not every person with negative marks on their criminal records are hardened, violent criminals. It is important to understand these classifications when confronted with a potential employee or housing applicant. It is natural to be wary of a person with a criminal background, but not all criminal classifications are created equal.


Infractions are crimes not typically punished with jail time. They are sometimes referred to as petty crimes, and they are often punishable by fines. Sometimes, those who commit petty crimes do not go to court and simply pay the necessary fines. These are often small crimes such as violations of local traffic law - speeding, parking in no parking zones - as well as violation of anti-noise ordinances in certain areas. Other petty crimes include improper disposal of trash or even causing damage after running a red light.


Misdemeanors are crimes that are more serious than infractions, or petty crimes, but are not quite as serious as felonies. The maximum sentence for a misdemeanor is typically 12 months in jail. It will be seen that some misdemeanors, such as the possession of a small amount of marijuana, are felonies in other states. Know your state laws and understand the weight of each crime and how it fits into a misdemeanor-to-felony spectrum, especially as some misdemeanors can escalate into felony charges.


Felonies are the most serious classification of crimes. Ranging from aggravated assault and arson to murder and tax evasion, there are different classifications of felony crimes in each state. Punishments for each increase with the severity of the crime. There are minimum and maximum sentencing guidelines for each type of felony, with varying and specific degrees. Regardless of the felony committed, those with felonies on their records after serving time and/or paying fines have the most difficult time rejoining society and becoming productive citizens once again.

However, not all felonies, or any crime in each classification is created equal as well. Some individuals with past criminal charges have a difficult time starting over after they’ve served their time. Expungement, or ‘erasing’ parts of a criminal record, is dependent on each state’s laws as it is done within a state’s court system. If you are considering felony expungement in PA, you may not have the same requirements as other states, so it is important to see a lawyer in your state to fully understand the process.

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