Defining the difference between infractions and misdemeanors

Those in Encino who watch courtroom dramas or listen to legal stories on the local news may often be inundated with legal terms that, while they may think they understand their meaning, they do not fully comprehend their application. One such term is “misdemeanor.” Most may associate misdemeanors with felonies in that each classifies a category of crimes, with felony offenses being more serious. This may lead people to assume that any minor crime or offense is a misdemeanor. However, there is third recognized category of offenses: infractions.

The Superior Court of California for the County of Los Angeles defines an infraction as a crime not punishable by imprisonment that can typically be processed through the county clerk’s office. At the same time, it recognizes a misdemeanor to be an offense punishable by fines of up to $1,000 and/or one year of jail time. Additionally, a misdemeanor offense may also require the payment of restitution to those affected by the action.

According to Los Angeles County Code, violations of its Traffic Code constitute infractions that carry with them the following schedule of fines:

  •          $50 for a first conviction
  •          $100 for a second conviction within the same year as the first
  •          $250 for a third or subsequent conviction within the same time frame

This is not to say that all traffic offenses are viewed as infractions. Serious issues may end up being treated as misdemeanors by the court. These may include actions such as reckless driving or operating a vehicle with a suspended license or no license at all. Those convicted of misdemeanor offenses may be able to have their records cleared of them after a certain time provided they meet the qualifications set by the state. 

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