Monthly Archives: January 2017

Understanding The Classification Of Crimes

There are different classifications for crimes in the US, based on their seriousness. This Criminal-Lawclassification influences not only how any criminal case will proceed, but also what likely punishment you can expect if you are found guilty at the end.

There are three different classifications: infractions are the least serious offenses, felonies the most serious with misdemeanors sitting in the middle. If you have been arrested, it can be helpful to understand where the crime you have been accused of sits on this scale. But if you need any further information or advice as to how this classification should affect your response to questions from the police, then it is best to call a criminal defense lawyer and ask them to advise you going forward.


Infractions are the least serious offenses dealt with by our criminal justice system, and are often referred to as petty offenses. In some, infractions are not even considered to be a criminal offense and are instead dealt with through civil courts. Even in the states where infractions are dealt with by the criminal courts, you are very unlikely to be sent to prison for committing an infraction.

A lot of minor traffic violations are considered infractions, such as speeding or failing to use your turn signal, along with non-moving violations including parking in front of a fire hydrant or possessing a vehicle that is unfit to be on the road. Of course, there are some very serious traffic violations that are classified as misdemeanors and even felonies, but most are dealt with through tickets and fines rather than prison sentences.

Most of the time, infractions that are not related to traffic offenses involve individuals who break local laws; offenses that have a damaging effect on the community rather than on an individual victim of crime. These kinds of infractions include littering, jaywalking, walking a dog without a leash and drinking alcohol in public.


Moving into slightly more serious offenses, misdemeanors can often be punished by a jail sentence or perhaps a substantial fine. Misdemeanors themselves are often separated into three different categories: petty misdemeanors are the least serious, gross or high misdemeanors are the most serious, with ordinary misdemeanors in the middle.

Different states take different approaches to prosecuting misdemeanors, with many allowing flexibility for how a case is prosecuted depending on the extenuating circumstances — for instance, if it is the first time the defendant has been in trouble with the law. Some states even allow judges to decide if certain crimes should be prosecuted as a misdemeanor or a felony, again depending on extenuating circumstances. This can have serious implications for the likely punishment, as people found guilty of felonies usually face a significant prison sentence.


These are the most serious crimes, and are usually punished by significant prison sentences. In some states, people found guilty of felony murder charges still face the death sentence. If you are charged with a felony offense, this will affect how the criminal justice system treats you and your case throughout, from your first appearance in court until sentencing. It is likely to prove more difficult to get bail if you have been charged with a felony, or the amount set for bail could be so high as to be unreachable for your family and friends.

Many states have introduced what has become known as a “three strikes” rule with regard

to felonies. This applies to repeat offenders who have been arrested and charged on multiple occasions for felony offenses. This rule applies once you are found guilty of your third felony; a guilty verdict will lead to a much more severe punishment than you could have normally expected had you been found guilty of the same crime for the first time. For instance, those found guilty of dealing drugs on three separate occasions could find themselves facing a life sentence in prison rather than the usual sentence of two or three years behind bars.

The “three strikes” rule is supposed to act as a deterrent; the idea being that even repeat offenders will give up their life of crime if they know they could face life in prison next time they are picked up for even a minor felony. Experts believe that it has not had this effect, however, and has instead merely led to overcrowding and increased problems in the prison system in the US.

If you have been arrested, it is important to establish quickly what kind of offense you are likely to be charged with; getting your own or a court-appointed attorney to advise you is vital, especially if you have been charged with a serious misdemeanor or a felony.

What To Do If You Are Arrested

Being arrested can be a frightening experience, especially if you are not guilty of any crime. keep-calm-you-are-not-guiltyArresting police officers have to adhere to a number of rules and regulations regarding their conduct, and also in regard to respecting your rights — whether you are innocent or guilty of the crime you have been arrested for. After all, in the US. everyone is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

Everyone who has watched a cop show on TV thinks they know what police officers can and can’t do in the process of arresting a suspect, but it is worth knowing the facts about being arrested, in case it should ever happen to you.

When Can You Be Arrested?

First and foremost, it is important to know that a police officer can only arrest an individual under certain circumstances and that if your arrest is subsequently found not to fall into one of these categories, it can result in the case being thrown out before it even reaches court. If the arresting officer has witnessed you committing a crime then it goes without saying that they can arrest you. This also applies to drivers arrested for drunk driving after being pulled over for a breathalyzer test.

If there is a warrant out for your arrest, then any police officer who tracks you down can arrest you. Warrants can be issued if you are named as a suspect in a crime, but they can also be issued if you fail to turn up for a court appearance or fail to pay a fine for a previous offense.

Finally, and this is the category where there is the biggest gray area, an officer can arrest you if there is “probable cause” that you have committed a crime. For example, if a police officer hears on their radio that an armed robbery has been carried out a few streets away by someone matching your description, and they then see you running away from the scene of the crime, they would claim that this gives them probable cause to arrest you.

It is important to challenge immediately any arrest that you suspect may not be legal; call a Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer for advice or representation if you have concerns about the conduct of arresting officers in your case.

Your Rights If You Have Been Arrested

Under ArrestThanks to TV shows, most people now know that police officers have a legal obligation to make a suspect aware of their rights if they are being arrested. These are called the Miranda rights, named after a 1966 court case, Miranda vs. Arizona, which ruled that any statements made by an individual in custody could only be admitted as evidence in court if they had been informed first that they also had the right to remain silent and the right to see an attorney.

If an arresting police officer fails to make you aware of your rights, any statements you make are not admissible in any future court case. In addition, any subsequent evidence found because of statements made by an individual who had not been read their Miranda rights are also inadmissible. You could confess to an armed robbery, telling the police where they could find the stolen items and the weapons you used, but if you did so without being informed of your rights, then none of that information could be used at any subsequent trial.

Right to an Attorney

Part of the Miranda rights includes making those who have been arrested aware of their right to an attorney, and that if the individual cannot afford an attorney that the court will appoint one to act on their behalf. It is important to understand that asking for an attorney is not in any way an admission of your guilt; in fact, if you are innocent and have never been arrested for a crime before, then you will probably have more need of a criminal defense lawyer than people who understand how the system works.

Once you have called your own attorney or had one appointed for you, the police can no longer question you without your lawyer being present. This helps to protect your rights throughout the whole criminal justice process, as well as ensuring you have someone on hand who can explain the process to you and give you advice on the best course of action. Sometimes that best course of action will be to accept a plea deal — where the arrested individual pleads guilty to a crime in exchange for a lighter sentence — and it will be the job of your attorney to negotiate the best plea deal possible for you, as their client.