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Infractions, misdemeanors and felonies

If you get arrested, it's critical that you understand exactly what types of charges you're facing. This can dictate what next steps you should take and what types of ramifications to expect.

These charges are divided into three basic categories.

Felonies

These are the most serious charges, used for things like aggravated assault, kidnapping, burglary and murder. Generally, those convicted will go to prison, not to jail. The term will often be more than 12 months. These charges will, in most cases, stay on your record.

Misdemeanors

These are mid-level crimes. They could require jail time, and it may actually be served in a local jail, as opposed to a prison complex. Sentences tend to be shorter, often a matter of months instead of a matter of years. Some note that there is often a lot of flexibility regarding these sentences.

Infractions

Infractions should be taken seriously, but they're not as serious as the two categories listed above. For example, a traffic ticket is an infraction. Yes, you've broken the law, but you're not going to prison or to jail in many cases. You just get a ticket and it's all over once you've paid the fine.

No matter what types of criminal charges you're facing, it's important to know your legal options. This is especially true if you disagree with the charges. Even something as simple as a speeding ticket could grow complicated if you think that you never broke the law and you think the police made mistakes, stereotyped you, profiled you, didn't have reasonable cause, or did anything else to breach your rights.

Source: FindLaw, "What Distinguishes a Misdemeanor From a Felony?," accessed July 14, 2017

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