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How Are Crimes Classified?

by | Aug 10, 2021 | Criminal Charges, Criminal Defense Lawyer |

Crimes are classified differently according to the severity and seriousness of the offense. This categorization exists to determine the appropriate punishment as it influences the substance and procedure of every criminal charge.

Hence the importance of understanding the difference between the classifications:


Infractions (often called violations) are the least serious crimes and are typically punishable by fines. An infraction takes place when an administrative regulation, a municipal code, an ordinance, and a state or local traffic rule (in some cases) is violated.

In most states, an infraction isn´t considered a criminal offense, and in the states that are, they are rarely punishable by incarceration.

Some of the more common infractions include traffic violations, fishing without a license, jaywalking, drinking in public, disturbing the peace, and littering.



This type of criminal offense is more serious than infractions, but less serious than felonies, and is generally punishable by incarceration in local county jail and a fine.

In Florida, misdemeanors are subcategorized into first-degree and second-degree misdemeanors. First-degree misdemeanors are punishable with up to one year in jail, and/or twelve months of probation, in addition to a $1,000.

On the other hand, second-degree misdemeanors are punishable with up to 60 days in jail and/or a six-month probation term, and a $500 fine.

When a misdemeanor is committed, the state must begin a prosecution within a period of time (statute of limitations), which begins at the time a crime is committed. First-degree misdemeanors have a two-year statute of limitations, while second-degree misdemeanors have a one-year period.

The most common misdemeanors include DUI, driving with a suspended license, petty theft, domestic violence battery, and resisting an officer without violence.



Felonies are the most serious crimes, characterized by a heinous intent and/or accompanied by a serious result. Due to the gravity of these offenses, all sentencing options are applicable.

Just as misdemeanors, felonies are subcategorized:

  • Felonies of the first degree are usually punishable in Florida by up to thirty years in prison, a fine of up to $10,000, and thirty years probation. Some examples are carjacking, human trafficking, and DUI manslaughter while leaving the scene.
  • Second-degree felonies can result in up to fifteen years in prison, fifteen years probation, and a $10,000 fine. Aggravated Battery with a weapon, child abuse, and possession of controlled substances are a few second-degree felonies.
  • Third-degree felonies are the least serious types of felonies in Florida, and are punishable by up to five years in prison or five years probation, and a fine of up to $5,000. Some of the most common third-degree felonies include burglary, resisting arrest with violence, and a third or subsequent DUI.
  • Life felonies are punishable by a 40 years-to-life imprisonment and a fine of up to $15,000. An offender may be convicted for a Life Felony for subsequent convictions of first-degree felonies, or for violent crimes. Some examples of a life-felony crime are kidnapping, accomplice to murder, unpremeditated murder, and robbery with a firearm or other deadly weapon.
  • A capital felony is punishable by death or life imprisonment without the possibility of parole in state prison. Capital felonies include murder, capital drug trafficking, and some felony crimes where there are sexual or death components.


These types of crimes are those that the government can prosecute and punish as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances accompanying the offense.

No matter what type of crime you may be charged with, legal advice and representation are imperative in order to protect your interests and assure that your case is handled properly. Russell Spatz is an experienced criminal defense lawyer, who is willing to uphold your rights. To meet with lawyer Russell Spatz to discuss your criminal matter, please call the Spatz Law Firm, PL, at 305-442-0200.

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