New York Criminal Defense Law 101 – Defining Felony, Misdemeanor and Violation

You should not have to rely solely on your New York criminal defense attorney to explain every facet of every law. While the criminal defense attorneys and former Manhattan prosecutors at Saland Law PC, will take the time to explain the law and navigate you through the murky waters of the criminal justice system, educating yourself and being prepared is often one of the best ways to avoid needing a criminal defense attorney in the first place.

Criminal defense attorneys, prosecutors and judges often throw around words that may be confusing to a person not involved in the criminal justice system. As a way to jump start your understanding of the law we will address a few of those words and their definitions.

Article 10 of the New York State Penal Law defines the following terms:

(1) Offense – Generally, an offense is conduct that is punishable by a term of imprisonment.

(2) Violation – A violation is an offense, not including a traffic infraction, where the potential sentence cannot be greater than fifteen days jail. It is important to note that a violation is not a crime. Therefore, if you plead guilty to a violation you will not have a criminal record as a result of that particular plea.

(3) Misdemeanor – Like a violation, a misdemeanor is an offense that does not include a traffic violation. A potential sentence for a misdemeanor exceeds the fifteen days of a violation, but cannot be greater than one year in jail. Misdemeanors are described as “A” misdemeanors, “B” misdemeanors and “unclassified” misdemeanors. While “A” misdemeanors are punishable by up to one year, “B” misdemeanors are punishable by up to ninety days jail.

(4) Felony – A felony is an offense where the punishment may exceed the one year maximum associated with misdemeanors. Felonies are range from an “E” felony to an “A” felony.

(5) Crime – Again, a violation is not a crime. A crime is either a misdemeanor or a felony. If you have been convicted of a violation such as disorderly conduct, Penal Law 240.20, you would not have a criminal record as a result of that particular plea or conviction.

The above information is not an all encompassing tutorial on the criminal law in New York, but at a minimum it can put you on the right path to understanding charges, how they are classified, and the ramifications. If you find yourself the target of or arrested for any offense, contact Saland Law PC, to protect your rights, liberty and integerity.

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