What’s the Difference Between a Violation, Misdemeanor, and Felony in New York?

New York’s criminal laws have been undergoing drastic changes in recent years, so it’s understandable that most people are not familiar with the current criminal justice system and classification of crimes for adults. Knowing the differences between offenses can help determine a lot of life-changing things like whether they must be disclosed to potential employers or if conviction results in a permanent criminal record. Here are some general differences between violations, misdemeanors and felonies. Under New York law, they are all considered “offenses,” but are distinct categories under the penal code.

New York Criminal Violations (or Infractions)

A violation is an offense other than a traffic infraction that carries a maximum possible punishment of 15 days in jail. Even though you can be taken into custody by law enforcement and held, violations are not considered crimes. This means that even if you are convicted of a violation, after disposition you won’t have a permanent criminal record. In many cases, this can save you from mandatory disclosure on employment applications or background checks.

For example, you might be taken into custody for disorderly conduct and then released after calming down. You’ll likely receive an appearance ticket to show up to court and handle fines or other issues related to the violation, but once this is done you have no further actions to take or consequences to face.

New York Misdemeanors

Misdemeanors are usually considered low-level offenses, and the maximum possible sentence for a conviction is one year in jail. Misdemeanors can be divided into Class A and Class B misdemeanors or unclassified. A top New York defense attorney can try to have Class A misdemeanors reduced to Class B misdemeanors to reduce the possible punishments.

Class A misdemeanors are more serious, and convictions can result in up to 3 years on probation or one year in jail, with a possible fine of up to $1,000. Class B misdemeanors carry a maximum sentence of three months or a year of probation, and the maximum fine is $500.

New York Felonies

Felony charges are filed for the most serious crimes like robbery and murder and sentences can range from at least one year in prison to a life sentence depending on the crime. Felonies are classified from most to least serious in this order: A-I, A-II, B, C, D, and E. Defense attorneys will often try to have a more serious felony charge reduced to a lesser class of offense or to a misdemeanor.

New York Criminal Defense Lawyer

Being charged with a crime is a serious concern for anyone, but it’s important to know the structure the criminal justice system uses to classify crimes in order to understand the consequences and possible options for negotiation and plea deals. Whether you are facing a violation or more serious crime, it’s important you have an experienced criminal defense attorney by your side to try to secure the best possible outcome for your situation. Contact the experienced team at MOWK Law to have your questions answered and learn about your options today.