Most states break their crimes into two major groups: felonies and misdemeanors. Whether a crime falls into one category or the other depends on the potential punishment. If a law provides for imprisonment for longer than a year, it is usually considered a felony. If the potential punishment is for a year or less, then the crime is considered a misdemeanor.
In some states, certain crimes are described on the books as "wobblers," which means that the prosecutor may charge the crime as either a misdemeanor (carrying less than a year's jail time as punishment) or a felony (carrying a year or more).
Behaviors punishable only by fine are usually not considered crimes at all, but infractions -- for example, traffic tickets. But a legislature may on occasion punish behavior only by a fine and still provide that it is a misdemeanor -- such as possession of less than an ounce of marijuana for personal use in California.
Pittsburgh Criminal Defense Attorney Frank Walker
Saturday, October 10, 2009
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