What is the Difference Between a Felony, Misdemeanor & Infraction?

Felonies and Misdemeanors Defined What is a Felony?

A felony is the most serious classification of crime that you can be charged with. Typically, a felony involves some form of violence and has a penalty of anywhere from one year in prison up to death.

What is a Misdemeanor?

A misdemeanor is a crime that is more serious than an infraction, but less serious than a felony. While there is still the possibility for jail time, the maximum jail sentence is far less severe than for that of a felony.

What is an Infraction?

An infraction is not a criminal offense and holds no jail time. Usually, the maximum fee imposed is $100 plus any court or administrative fees.

Types of Felonies

Felonies are classified from Class A to Class I. Depending on the type of felony you have been charged with, you could face anywhere from two years in prison, to life in prison or even death.

The different Classes of felonies, examples of corresponding crimes and potential maximum sentences are listed below. This is just a guide and it is important to note that every situation and charge is different, and sentencing is not a cut and dry situation. Often prior convictions and multiple charges can influence your prison sentence. It is imperative that you hire a defense attorney who is experienced in felony charges and can help defend your innocence.

Class A Felonies - Potential Maximum Punishment: Death or Life Without the Possibility of Parole
  • First Degree Murder
Class B1 Felonies - Potential Maximum Punishment: Life Without Parole
  • Second-degree murder committed after 12/1/2012 (there are some minor exceptions to this, and your attorney can help you navigate these nuances)
  • First Degree forcible rape
  • First Degree forcible sexual offense
  • First degree statutory sexual offense
Class B2 Felonies: Potential Maximum Punishment of 484 Months
  • Second degree murder committed prior to 12/1/2012 (there are some minor exceptions to this, and your attorney can help you navigate these nuances)
Class C Felonies: Potential Maximum Punishment of 231 Months
  • Second-degree forcible rape
  • Second-degree forcible sexual offenses
  • Assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill
  • First Degree Kidnapping
  • Embezzlement of at least $100,000
Class D Felonies: Potential Maximum Punishment: 231 Months
  • Voluntary Manslaughter
  • First-Degree Burglary
  • First-Degree Arson
  • Armed Robbery
  • Child Abuse – Inflicting Serious Physical Injury
  • Death by a Vehicle
  • Selling or Delivering Controlled Substances to Persons Between the age of 13 – 16
Class E Felonies – Potential Maximum Punishment: 88 Months
  • Sexual Activity by a Substitute Parent or Custodian
  • Assault with a Deadly Weapon with an Intent to Kill or Seriously Injury
  • Discharging a Weapon into an Occupied Property
  • Assaulting a Law Enforcement Officer with a Firearm
  • Second-degree Kidnapping
  • Selling or Delivering a Controlled Substance Within 1,000 Feet of a School
Class F Felonies - Potential Maximum Punishment: 59 Months
  • Involuntary Manslaughter
  • Assault Inflicting Serious Bodily Injury
  • Assaulting a Government Officer or Employee with a Deadly Weapon
  • Felonious Restraint
  • Burning of Certain Building
  • Indecent Liberties with Children
  • Prostitution with a minor
Class G Felonies - Potential Maximum Punishment: 47 Months
  • Second-degree burglary
  • Second-degree arson
  • Common Law Robbery
  • Identity Theft
  • Possession of Firearms by a Felon
  • Sale of certain controlled substances
Class H Felonies - Potential Maximum Punishment: 39 Months
  • Strangulation
  • Habitual Misdemeanor Assault
  • Breaking or Entering w/felonious intent
  • Possessing Stolen Goods
  • Larceny of property that is worth more than $1000
Class I Felonies - Potential Maximum Sentence: 24 Months
  • Breaking or entering a vehicle
  • Bank card theft
  • Forgery
  • Possession of Cocaine
  • Obtaining a controlled substance through fraud

*** For a more comprehensive list of North Carolina Felonies please reference NCCourts.gov

Types of Misdemeanors

Misdemeanors are classified from Class A1 to Class 3. While a misdemeanor charge is not quite as serious as a felony charge, there is a still a potential for jail time. It is extremely important that you consult an experienced criminal defense attorney to try and minimize or eliminate any jail time.

The different Classes of felonies, examples of corresponding crimes and possible maximum sentences are listed below:

Class A1 Misdemeanors - Potential Maximum Punishment of 150 Days
  • Assaulting a female
  • Assaulting a child under 12
  • Violation of a Protective Order
Class 1 Misdemeanors - Potential Maximum Punishment of 120 Days
  • Larceny of Property $1,000 or less
  • Communicating Threats
  • Writing bad checks for $2,000 or less from a closed account
  • Unauthorized use of a vehicle
Class 2 Misdemeanors - Potential Maximum Punishment of 60 Days
  • Indecent Exposure
  • Cyberstalking
  • Resisting Officers
  • Disorderly Conduct
Class 3 Misdemeanors - Potential Maximum Punishment of 20 Days
  • Second degree Trespass
  • Fishing without a license
  • Driving with an open container in the passenger area of your car
  • Carrying a concealed weapon (without a proper permit)

***For a more comprehensive list of North Carolina Misdemeanors please reference NCCourts.gov

Types of Infractions

Below are some common examples of infractions. This is not a comprehensive list, as there are hundreds of infractions that can be committed under North Carolina Law. If you have further questions about a citation for a specific infraction, it is best to consult with a defense attorney.

  • Traffic Violations (it is important to be aware that depending on the violation this could possibly be classified as a misdemeanor or felony)
  • Littering
  • Operating a business without a license
  • Walking your dog without a leash
  • Jaywalking
How We Can Help

Being charged with any level of crime can be overwhelming. We at Arnold & Smith, PLLC have dedicated criminal defense attorneys who have experience defending a wide variety of crimes. Contact us today at 704.370.2828 for a consultation. For your convenience and safety, we offer video and phone conferencing. If you prefer an in-person consultation, we have three easy to reach offices in Uptown Charlotte, Monroe and Mooresville.