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Misdemeanor vs Felony Criminal Charges

3. What are the classifications of criminal conduct?

Criminal conduct is generally classified by the level of severity and the potential punishment from breaking the law. The two primary classifications of crimes are as follow:

•    Misdemeanor – A misdemeanor is crime of lesser significance that is punishable by a fine or a joint sentence of less than one year.

•    Felonies – Felonies are more serious crimes that are punishable by fine or imprisonment in a penitentiary for a period of one year or more.

Historically, the common law identified “treason” as a class of serious offense that was separate from a felony. Also, today, many jurisdictions identify a less severe form of criminal act, known as an “infraction”. The infraction is generally a minor violation of an ordinance or regulation.

•    Discussion: Do you believe that laws are always classified appropriately? Do you believe that criminal conduct is generally classified too leniently or too harshly? Do you believe that the misclassification of crimes has a negative impact on society?

•    Practice Question: Clark is a college student at City College. He is at a house party drinking alcohol when the police arrive to break up the party. Clark is cited for underage drinking. Angry at the occurrence, Clark gets into an argument with a police officer and punches him. Clark is arrested and taken to jail. What is the likely classification of each of Clark’s criminal acts? Why?

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