An infraction is a petty offense that is seen as a violation of an ordinance, municipal code, or traffic rule. In many cases, infractions are only seen as civil offenses instead of a criminal offense. In some jurisdictions, however, they are seen as criminal offenses even if the penalties are not very harsh. Unlike misdemeanors and felonies, they are seen as a petty offense to many. Common examples of infractions are traffic violations, littering, fishing without a license, jaywalking, operating a business without a proper license, drinking in public, and walking an unleashed dog.
The Difference in the Infraction Process
If you were charged with a misdemeanor or felony crime, you would have protections of the criminal justice system. However, infractions give you fewer rights because you are not facing a deprivation of your liberty. When you have sustained an infraction, you do not have the constitutional right to a jury trial or the right to free counsel. However, all the same, you still have many rights in the process. You still have the right to go before a judge as well as prevent evidence or call witnesses. You may also appeal if you do no agree with the judge’s findings.
When an infraction takes place, the first thing you will typically receive is a citation. This could also be seen as a notice to appear. It will include important aspects like a citation number, description of the violation, name of the officer who issued it, location of the courthouse, and more.
There are many ways in which misdemeanors differ from infractions, and many that they are the same. For instance, they are often defined in very broad language, so you may need clarification. Even if you only received an infraction for a crime, you could speak to an attorney to fight your case if you believe that you were not in the wrong. A skilled attorney can help you navigate California criminal law. Call us today for more.