Criminal Law

Criminal law, also known as penal law, is the system of statutory and common laws that determine the legal punishment for actions by adults or juveniles deemed to be dangerous to citizens or damaging to society.

The three basic types of crimes are:

  • Felony - This is the most serious type of crime and can be punishable by more than a year of imprisonment. Examples include second-degree murder, armed robbery, rape, etc.
  • Misdemeanor - This is less serious than a felony but it can be punishable by up to a year of incarceration, as well as fines. Examples include simple assault and basic theft.
  • Infraction - This is the least serious of crimes and is only punishable by fines. Traffic violations are a common type of infraction.

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Each state has different punishments for felonies and each felony charge carries serious consequences and specific sentences.

Common felonies include:

  • Murder/Homicide
  • Rape
  • Drug trafficking
  • Child abuse
  • Gun possession
  • Burglary
  • Money laundering
  • Child pornography

Being accused of a felony:

The consequences of a felony conviction can be extremely serious. If you break the law, any of the following punishments are possible:

  • Imprisonment
  • Probation or parole
  • Significant fines
  • Loss of the right to possess deadly weapons
  • Loss of occupational licensing
  • Loss of the right to vote


Although a misdemeanor is less serious than a felony, it can be punishable by up to one year in prison and significant fines.

Common misdemeanors include:

  • Theft
  • Assault and battery
  • Drunk driving DUI/DWI
  • Vandalism
  • Public drunkenness
  • Resisting arrest
  • Trespassing
  • Disorderly conduct
  • Failure to appear in court
  • Prostitution

What should you do if you are accused of a misdemeanor?

The conviction of a misdemeanor may stay on your record for life. Some other examples of misdemeanor consequences include:

  • County jail
  • Probation
  • Fines
  • Mandatory classes
  • Loss of the right to possess deadly weapons

Consequences for felonies and misdemeanors can depend on a variety of factors including:

  • Severity of the harm done
  • Extenuating circumstances
  • Attitude of the community and court toward this type of crime
  • Prior convictions
  • Currently on probation or parole
  • Whether or not a weapon is used

Juvenile crimes:

The goal of the juvenile system is to rehabilitate children rather than punish them. However, minors still face severe penalties such as probation, residential treatment programs, and juvenile prisons. A juvenile record can jeopardize a child's future career and educational opportunities.

Cases involving minors include:

  • Drug offenses
  • Shoplifting
  • Robbery and burglary
  • Expulsion
  • Underage drinking
  • Sex offenses and misconduct
  • Assault and battery
  • Criminal mischief and vandalism
  • Weapons offenses
  • Expungement and sealing records

What should you do if you are accused of a felony, misdemeanor, or juvenile crime?

If you or someone you love has been accused of a felony, misdemeanor, or juvenile crime it is important to speak with an experienced criminal lawyer immediately to learn more about your rights, defenses, and the legal process. A criminal lawyer will ensure that your rights are properly defended in court and that the appropriate punishment is determined.