Classification Of Crimes Infractions

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When used as a legal term, an infraction is a violation of some regulation, municipal code, or ordinance. It is also known as a "petty offense." In some states and cities, an infraction may be a violation of traffic laws as well.

Some states consider an infraction to be a civil offense, while others consider an infraction to be a criminal offense. In the states that consider an infraction a criminal offense, punishment rarely occurs in the form of imprisonment or loss of civil rights, as with more severe crimes that fall under the classification of a misdemeanor or a felony. If someone must serve a short sentence for an infraction, he or she would do so in a local or county jail. When an infraction is considered a civil offense, no crime has been committed.

Most infractions are not settled in a court hearing, but rather by administrative officials. The most common form of punishment for an infraction is a fine. Fines set due to an infraction are typically very small.

Some of the possible consequences of a criminal infraction are:
5 days or less in jail
small fines
an order to correct the offending situation

There are several minor violations which are considered to be infractions in most states. Littering is an infraction that typically results in a fine that cannot exceed a particular amount, depending on the state. Jaywalking is another common infraction that generally results in a fine. Some small towns and municipalities have particular codes regarding building or housing. Violations of these codes are considered an infraction and generally punishable by a fine.

Disturbing the peace usually involves unreasonably loud noise which has an effect on others; disturbing the peace is generally considered an infraction. Punishment for disturbing the peace is typically a small fine. Very rarely is disturbing the peace considered a misdemeanor.

In many jurisdictions a series of overlooked infractions may lead to a misdemeanor charge and accompanying jail time. For example, parking violations are punishable by fines only, but several unpaid parking tickets may result in a misdemeanor charge and subsequent jail time until the tickets are paid.
Several states consider a minor traffic violation to be an infraction. In many states, speeding infractions will be subject to a set fine depending on the "miles per hour" or MPH over the set speed limit. Some states allow a person charged with a speeding infraction to pay his or her fine over the Internet for convenience. Many court locations will typically accept cash, money order, or credit card as payment for infraction fines. If a person fails to pay an infraction fee on time, penalty fees may be added.

Several jurisdictions allow first time offenders for small misdemeanors including trespassing, disorderly conduct and marijuana possession to be downgraded to infractions, which allows the defendant to avoid receiving a criminal record. This is especially true if the defendant only received a citation instead of being arrested. By allowing a first time offense to be reduced to an infraction, if the offender were to then be caught committing another crime, it would most likely result in jail time.

Generally speaking, an attorney is not necessary to handle an infraction case. In most cases, the person charged with an infraction will pay the fine and nothing else will occur. The defendant can have an attorney appear to defend them in an infraction case if they choose. Unlike felony and misdemeanor offenses, a defendant is not entitled to court-appointed counsel if they cannot afford one.

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