Trusted Criminal Defense Attorneys
In Southern California

I agree to receive promotional content and notifications from Manshoory Law Group through email or text message. For further details, kindly refer to our Privacy Policy.

Call or text Today for a
Free Case Analysis

(877) 977-7750

Select Page

Understanding the complexities of the legal system can be daunting, particularly when confronted with terms like “infraction vs misdemeanor.” It is hard to grasp their true significance.

Still, despite their apparent similarities, these phrases denote different levels of offense that entail distinct consequences. Now, let us examine the essential differences and the potential effects they may have on your circumstances.

Defining the Terms: Infraction vs Misdemeanor

Let’s first talk about what is an infraction. In the category of infractions, it is easy to compare them with minor transgressions such as getting a parking ticket[1] or going slightly over the speed limit. These infractions are simple offenses and don’t add up to a criminal record.

Normally a judge fines the person for doing some wrong thing, generally not more than $250, so that’s great news! Nevertheless, regional laws may provide for additional sanctions depending on specific traffic infractions.

Misdemeanors[2], however, are violations of greater importance. They include unlawful activities that can lead to incarceration for up to one year, in addition to monetary sanctions, periods under supervision like probation, or community service. Examples include shoplifting[3], disturbing the peace, damage to property, and disorderly behavior in public.

If we simply put the misdemeanor vs infraction debate together, we can say that infractions resemble receiving a speeding ticket, whereas misdemeanors resemble being apprehended for shoplifting (although the specific offenses may differ from state to state).

Similar to other states, California classifies offenses into the categories mentioned above: infractions vs misdemeanors. Moreover, there is a third category as well, for the most serious of offenses, which is felony offenses.

However, there are different legal consequences to each of them, depending on the gravity and specific scenario. Below is a detailed overview of the typical infraction vs misdemeanor repercussions.


  • Penalties: The primary penalty for an infraction is usually a fine. Usually, there’s a maximum fine of 250 dollars, although specific traffic infractions could escalate to $500. Traffic infractions might also include points on the driver’s record, which can affect insurance rates and driving privileges.
  • No jail time: One of the key characteristics of an infraction is that it does not lead to jail time. If you’re cited for an infraction, you won’t be arrested as long as you agree to appear in court or pay the fine by the due date.
  • Legal Process: Infractions typically do not require a court appearance if the fine is paid. However, individuals have the right to contest an infraction in court, though they do not have the right to a jury trial or a court-appointed attorney for these cases[4].


  • Penalties: Penalties for misdemeanors can include fines, probation, community service, and restitution payments to victims. The amount of fines can differ based on the violation, potentially surpassing thousands of dollars or getting a license suspension.
  • Potential imprisonment: You could get a maximum detention of twelve months in a county correctional facility.
  • Probation: Misdemeanor probation[5] can be substituted for or in addition to imprisonment.

infraction vs misdemeanor

The Impact on One’s Criminal Record

Usually, most traffic violations or minor infractions are not listed on your criminal record, meaning that these violations will not show up during a candidate’s job interview or when a landlord checks your past.

However, misdemeanors do appear on the official criminal records of individuals. This has the potential to restrict job prospects, housing choices, and even the capability to acquire specific licenses.

Nonetheless, the opportunity for a new beginning exists! In California, there is the option of expungement[6] for certain misdemeanors following a designated duration and the completion of specific prerequisites. On the contrary, infractions can be easily disregarded and usually do not need the help of an expungement lawyer.

The Process of Adjudication: Misdemeanor vs Infraction

While the consequences differ, both infractions vs misdemeanors involve interacting with the legal system. This section delves into the processes for each, highlighting the key steps and your rights at each stage. Let’s take a closer look:

  • Infractions

These are typically addressed in a straightforward manner. You will be issued a citation that outlines the transgression and the corresponding penalty.

According to the nature of the case, there are many possible ways to solve the matter of the fine – for example, by paying through an online platform, contesting the citation in court, or enrolling in a traffic school to understand the vehicle code. Mind you, in any case, the severity of your punishment can be mitigated if you attend traffic school.

  • Misdemeanors

When it comes to misdemeanors, the procedure becomes more intricate. Frequently, it encompasses:

  • Detention: You may face immediate arrest or be apprehended at a later time through a legally authorized warrant.
  • Arraignment: When arraigned, you stand before a judge and have the accusation against you formally pronounced, and you declare yourself as being guilty, not guilty, or not contesting.
  • Trial: When you enter a plea of not guilty, a trial takes place where evidence is presented, and the judge or jury determines your level of culpability.
  • Sentencing: If found guilty, the court makes an assessment and hands down the punishment after considering all the factors involved.

Keep in mind that representation is key! When facing minor offenses like misdemeanors, it is strongly advised to seek the assistance of criminal defense attorneys for legal representation.

A specialized Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney possesses the knowledge to navigate legal proceedings, offer counsel regarding available choices, and advocate on your behalf in court, potentially resulting in a more advantageous resolution.

In summary

Recognizing the difference between what is an infraction and a misdemeanor can hold significant importance. Although both result in repercussions, the severity and long-term consequences vary considerably. In the event that you encounter either circumstance, it is essential to bear in mind that having knowledge empowers you.

Educate yourself about the procedure and contact us at Manshoory Law if you need legal assistance to effectively navigate misdemeanor offense cases. It is important to keep in mind that even minor transgressions can result in long-term repercussions, thus it is advisable to acquire knowledge and make necessary preparations.


  1. https://www.oorg/self-help/non-traffic-infractions/infraction-ticket
Douglas Parker