A criminal infraction is a less serious type of criminal charge than a misdemeanor or a felony. It is a non-criminal violation of law, such as a traffic ticket or a violation of a city ordinance. It is generally punishable by fines or penalties and does not result in a criminal record, but in certain cases, it can also include short-term imprisonment. Criminal infractions are usually processed through administrative or civil court and have less severe penalties than misdemeanors or felonies.
How is an infraction different from a misdemeanor or a felony?
|Less serious criminal offense||More serious than an infraction, but less serious than a felony||Most serious type of criminal offense|
|Punishable by a fine or a small amount of jail time (typically less than 6 months)||Punishable by up to one year in jail||Punishable by imprisonment for more than one year|
|Examples include: traffic violations, minor drug possession, disorderly conduct||Examples include: petty theft, simple assault, possession of a controlled substance||Examples include: murder, rape, robbery, grand theft|
|No right to a trial by jury||Right to a trial by jury||Right to a trial by jury|
|No right to a public defender||Right to a public defender||Right to a public defender|
|No right to be released on bail||Right to be released on bail||Right to be released on bail|
|No effect on voting or gun rights||Can affect voting and gun rights||Can affect voting and gun rights|
|Can be expunged from criminal record||Can be expunged from criminal record||Cannot be expunged from criminal record|
Note that this chart is based on federal laws, and state laws can vary.
What are some examples of infractions?
Some examples of infractions include:
- Traffic violations, such as speeding, running a stop sign or red light, or failing to yield
- Minor drug possession, such as possession of marijuana in small amounts
- Disorderly conduct, such as loitering, public drunkenness, or disturbing the peace
- Trespassing, such as entering private property without permission
- Environmental offenses, such as littering or illegal dumping
- Animal control offenses, such as failure to leash a dog or not having a pet license
- Public health and safety offenses, such as smoking in a non-smoking area or failing to wear a mask in a public area
- Administrative offenses, such as failure to pay parking tickets or other fines
- Minor violations of city codes or ordinances
Please note that the examples may vary depending on the jurisdiction.
Can an infraction result in jail time?
Typically, infractions do not result in jail time. Infractions are considered the least serious type of criminal offense, and the penalties associated with them are generally limited to fines. However, in some cases, an infraction may be punishable by a small amount of jail time, usually less than six months. This depends on the jurisdiction and the specific infraction that has been committed. For example, some states or municipalities may have ordinances that specify a maximum jail time for certain types of infractions, such as traffic violations or disorderly conduct.
It is important to note that infractions are not considered crimes and thus you do not have the right to a trial by jury and no right to a public defender.
Can an infraction be expunged from a person’s record?
In some cases, it may be possible for an infraction to be expunged, or removed, from a person’s criminal record. The process for expungement varies depending on the jurisdiction and the specific infraction in question.
Generally, it involves petitioning the court to have the record sealed or destroyed. It’s important to note that not all infractions are eligible for expungement, and the criteria for expungement can vary widely from state to state. It’s best to consult with a lawyer who has experience with expungement in your jurisdiction to determine if your infraction is eligible for expungement, and what steps you need to take to petition the court for expungement.
Is there a statute of limitations for infractions?
Statutes of limitations for criminal offenses, including infractions, vary depending on the jurisdiction and the specific offense. In general, statutes of limitations set a time limit within which criminal charges must be brought after the commission of an offense. After the statute of limitations has expired, the government is typically barred from bringing criminal charges.
For infractions, the statute of limitations is usually shorter than for more serious criminal offenses, such as felonies. For example, some states have a statute of limitations of one year for most infractions, while others may have a statute of limitations of two or three years. However, there are also infractions that have no statute of limitation, such as some criminal traffic violations, like DUI.
It’s important to note that the statute of limitations for an infraction may be different from the statute of limitations for a related misdemeanor or felony charge. Also, the statute of limitations can be paused or “tolled” under certain circumstances, such as when a suspect is not in the state or country, so it is best to consult with a lawyer or the court to determine the statute of limitations for a specific infraction in your jurisdiction.
Do infractions require a trial by jury?
Generally, infractions do not require a trial by jury. Infractions are considered to be less serious offenses than misdemeanors and felonies, and they are often punishable by fines rather than jail time. As a result, the legal proceedings for infractions are typically less formal than those for more serious offenses.
Typically, infractions are handled in a hearing before a judge or a hearing officer, rather than a full trial. In these hearings, the defendant does not have the right to a trial by jury and is not entitled to the same constitutional protections as someone charged with a more serious crime. However, the defendant still has the right to present evidence, to cross-examine witnesses, and to be represented by an attorney.
Can a person be represented by an attorney for an infraction?
Yes, a person can be represented by an attorney for an infraction. While infractions are considered less serious than misdemeanors or felonies, and the legal proceedings are typically less formal, defendants still have the right to legal representation.
However, it’s important to note that the right to an attorney in infraction cases may vary by jurisdiction. In some places, defendants may have the right to an attorney appointed by the court, if they can’t afford to hire one. In other places, defendants may have to hire an attorney at their own expense.
What is the punishment for an infraction?
Here are a few examples of potential punishments for infractions:
- Points on a driver’s license
- Mandatory traffic school
- Community service
- Short-term imprisonment
Keep in mind that these are just examples and actual punishments can vary depending on the jurisdiction and the specific infraction. Some infractions might be punishable by more severe penalties, such as longer terms of imprisonment, depending on the nature of the infraction and the jurisdiction.
Can an infraction be appealed?
Yes, infractions can be appealed. The specific process for appealing an infraction will vary depending on the jurisdiction and the type of infraction. It may involve requesting a hearing or filing an appeal with a higher court. It’s recommended to check with the court or the enforcement agency that issued the infraction for more information on the specific appeal process.
Here is an example of how an infraction can be appealed:
Imagine that you received a traffic ticket for running a red light. You believe that the ticket was issued in error, so you decide to appeal it. The first step would be to check the instructions on the ticket, as they will likely explain the process for appealing the infraction.
In some jurisdictions, you may be able to request a hearing with a judge or a court clerk. During the hearing, you will have the opportunity to present evidence and argue that the ticket was issued in error. The judge will then decide whether to dismiss the ticket or uphold the infraction.
In other jurisdictions, you may need to file an appeal with a higher court. This may involve preparing and submitting legal briefs and may require the help of an attorney. The court will then review your case and issue a decision.
When to seek an attorney
Several reasons why you may need to seek an attorney’s advice when dealing with an infraction. Some examples include:
- Complex legal issues: If the infraction you received involves complex legal issues, such as a violation of your constitutional rights, it may be beneficial to consult with an attorney to ensure that your rights are protected.
- Possible criminal charges: Some infractions can lead to criminal charges if not handled properly, an attorney can advise on the best course of action to take in that situation.
- Demands for a high fine or penalties: If you are facing a high fine or penalties for an infraction, an attorney may be able to negotiate a reduced sentence or help you contest the charges.
- Points on license: Some infractions can lead to points on your license, which can cause your insurance rates to increase, or even lose your license if you have too many points. An attorney may be able to help you keep points off your license or minimize the consequences.
- Consequences for your profession: Some infractions may have serious consequences for certain professions and an attorney can advise on how to minimize the impact of the infraction on your professional life.
It is important to note that in some jurisdictions, an attorney may not be necessary, as the process for appealing an infraction is simple and straightforward, but it’s always good to check with an attorney to ensure that you are making the best decision for your situation.