In California, there are three categories of crimes.
Infraction. An infraction is a minor violation and is not considered a criminal offense nor does it create a criminal record. Violations are is punishable by a fine, community service, and/or jail time of up to five days. Examples of petty offenses include traffic tickets, trespassing, littering, and disturbing the peace.
Misdemeanor. A misdemeanor is more serious than an infraction and is deemed criminal in nature. If sentenced, it becomes part of the person's public criminal record. A conviction can result in a fine and a jail sentence of up to a year. (See Miscellaneous Misdemeanor Offenses.) There are different classes of misdemeanors with different sentencing guidelines:
- Class A misdemeanor - one year or less, but more than six months;
- Class B misdemeanor - six months or less, but more than thirty days; or
- Class C misdemeanor - thirty days or less, but more than five days.
Felony. A felony is the most serious type of crime, becomes part of a person's criminal record, and can result in punishment ranging from a year in jail to life in prison. As with misdemeanors, there are classes of felonies with different sentencing guidelines.
- Class A felony - life imprisonment or the death penalty;
- Class B felony - twenty-five or more years;
- Class C felony - less than twenty-five years, but more than ten years;
- Class D felony - less than ten years, but more than five years; or
- Class E felony - less than five years, but more than one year.
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