Felony? Misdemeanor? Infraction? What Does It All Mean?

In the State of Indiana whenever someone is charged with an offense, they will fall into one of three categories: 1. Felony, 2. Misdemeanor, or 3. Infraction.  An infraction is what most of us know as a traffic ticket.  These do not carry a potential for imprisonment since they are civil matters.  Rather it means you’ll pay a fine.  A great example is a speeding ticket being an infraction.  A felony charge is one that is criminal in nature and carries with it a potential penalty of more than one year incarceration in prison or jail.  A misdemeanor charge is also criminal in nature, but much less serious consequences as it would be a potential penalty of no more than one year in jail.  We highlight the word “potential” because a felony or misdemeanor charge does not always require a sentence in prison or jail.  In fact, in some circumstances, the “executed sentence” can be served on Work Release or Home Detention instead of prison or jail.

The table below lays out the various penalty ranges you might face for any particular charge:

Felony Levels

Offense Level Minimum Sentence Advisory Sentence Maximum Sentence Possible Fine
Murder 45 years 55 years 65 years $10,000
Level 1 20 years 30 years 40 years or 50 years for some child molest cases $10,000
Level 2 10 years 17 ½ years 30 years $10,000
Level 3 3 years 9 years 16 years $10,000
Level 4 2 years 6 years 12 years $10,000
Level 5 1 years 3 years 6 years $10,000
Level 6 180 days 1 year 2 ½ years $10,000

What is important on a felony charge is that even though there is a minimum sentence, Indiana law would allow for a Court to suspend (meaning possibly no prison or jail time) any part of a sentence for a felony charge unless that charge is a Level 2 or 3 felony AND the person has a prior unrelated felony conviction OR the charge is Murder or a Level 1 felony.  In those circumstances, the Court may only suspend that portion that is above the minimum sentence.   If you would serve an “executed sentence” that is not Work Release or Home Detention on a felony charge, you might serve that sentence in prison (typically if your sentence is longer than 1 actual year) or the county jail.

Also with a Level 6 felony, in certain circumstances a Court can actually convert any conviction to a Class A Misdemeanor instead of a “felony” conviction.  This can happen from the very start of the sentence or after someone completes their sentence through what is known as “Alternative Misdemeanor Sentencing.

Misdemeanor Levels

Offense Level Minimum Sentence Advisory Sentence Maximum Sentence Possible Fine
Class A 0 days None 365 days $5,000
Class B 0 days None 180 days $1,000
Class C 0 days None 60 days $500

Certainly, the potential consequences of a misdemeanor charge are significantly lower than those of the felony charge above.   Misdemeanor charges can be fully suspended, meaning that you can have no “executed sentence” but potentially a period of probation or merely fines, fees and costs.  Another difference is that if you had to serve an “executed sentence” that is not Work Release or Home Detention on a misdemeanor charge, you would serve it in the county jail.

This helps to give you a general idea of what someone might be facing, but there are many more potential changes or different outcomes that you might potentially face depending on the specific charge.  So, it’s important that you discuss your case with an attorney to know what exactly might occur.  If you or somebody you know has recently been charged with a crime or has questions about their case, contact the experienced criminal defense attorneys at Banks & Brower, LLC.  We are available at all times by calling us at 317-870-0019 or by emailing info@banksbrower.com.