Every state puts crimes into certain categories: infraction, misdemeanor and felony. Decisions as to classification are typically made by legislators, and determinations focus on a crime’s seriousness. This article takes a look at the differences in crimes as they relate to criminal law in Rapid City SD, moving from infractions (the least serious) to felonies (the most severe).
Also referred to as violations, infractions are minor offenses usually punishable by fines instead of jail time. Because these minor offenses don’t result in probation or jail, defendants don’t have a jury trial right. Those charged with infractions can hire attorneys, but the government isn’t obligated to provide legal representation. In infraction cases, prosecutors typically do not appear in court, and traffic offenses are a common type of minor crime. In some states, certain infractions are considered to be civil matters instead of criminal offenses.
A misdemeanor can carry a jail sentence of a year or less, and punishments can also include probation, restitution, fines and community service. A defendant has the right to a trial by jury, and poor defendants are entitled to the help of a public defender. Some states further divide misdemeanor crimes by severity, and define more serious acts as a “gross misdemeanor”.
Of criminal offenses, felonies are the most severe. A felony involves serious harm, or the threat of it, to a victim, but these crimes also include fraud schemes and other white-collar acts. A misdemeanor can be elevated to felony status for a second offense, and felony convictions don’t always result in jail time. However, felonies can carry the potential for anywhere from a year in prison to the death penalty. As with misdemeanor crimes, states group felonies by degree of severity.
Depending on a case’s circumstances, a defendant might not need an attorney who practices criminal law in Rapid City SD. However, for most cases, hiring a lawyer is the right decision. Beyond the sentence received, a conviction can carry lifelong consequences. If an attorney cannot help their client avoid conviction, they may be able to achieve a good result. By hiring an attorney, clients can protect their legal rights and explore all options and possible outcomes.