What Are all the Types of Criminal Charges? | Scartelli Olszewski, P.C.
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What Are All the Types of Criminal Charges?

Peter Olszewski
Peter Olszewski

No two criminal defense cases are the same. With all the differences and variations between cases, our criminal justice system diversifies and labels cases to deal with them to the best of its ability. We have multiple types of court for this reason and multiple types of criminal charges. We have not one, not two, but four types of criminal charges in Pennsylvania: infractions, summary offenses, misdemeanors, and felony charges.

Scartelli Olszewski, P.C.’s criminal defense attorneys have a long history of dealing with misdemeanors and felony charges. If you face a serious criminal charge, you need to contact us immediately to start building your case.

What Are Infractions, Misdemeanors, Felony Charges, and Summary Offenses?

These different charges rate the severity of the crime a person is being charged with. The severity of a crime affects many different aspects of the court proceeding, so these distinctions are needed. The type of criminal charge affects:

  • How the crime will be tried in court
  • How the jury will be selected
  • Who will be the prosecutor
  • How long the jury, judge, and prosecutors should expect the case to last
  • How severe the punishments will be

Infraction Charges

Infractions are the least severe crimes you can be charged with. These include traffic offenses that have nothing to do with morality and will commonly result in a fine. Jail or prison time is only considered when someone won’t pay a fine. If you can’t, the court will waive or extend the due date of the fee. Examples of infractions include:

  • Parking overtime
  • Speeding
  • Tailgating

Because these crimes cannot inherently lead to jail time, the right to a jury trial is waived. These crimes are not handled by the criminal court, despite an infraction technically being a criminal charge. They are handled by traffic court, which is why our criminal defense attorneys do not represent individuals for most infractions, only misdemeanors and felonies.

Summary Offenses

These are like infractions, but they are not traffic violations, so they are dealt with by criminal court rather than traffic court. The maximum penalty for these crimes includes 90 days in jail and a fine of up to $300. Most summary offenses do not even end in jail time, but they can lead to a criminal record, which can affect your job prospects. Examples of summary offenses include:

  • Disorderly conduct
  • Loitering
  • Harassment
  • Underage drinking

Misdemeanors Charges

Misdemeanors are not as serious as felony charges, but they are still nothing to take lightly. These criminal offenses can come with a punishment of jail time of less than one year. Their severity uses a three-class ranking system, which informs the accused of how long they can potentially spend in jail. Jail time is not the same as prison time. Jail time is spent in the local county jail.

The three classes include:

  • Class A misdemeanor – Between 6 months and 1 year in jail.
  • Class B misdemeanor – Between 30 days and 6 months in jail.
  • Class C misdemeanor – Between 5 and 30 days in jail.

This class system is included on top of the degree system that applies to both misdemeanor and felony charges. The three-degree system separates the different crimes that count as misdemeanors and felonies because not all misdemeanors are equal.

Examples of misdemeanors include:

  • Possession of marijuana
  • Shoplifting
  • Theft of $2000 or less
  • Stalking
  • Simple assault
  • Terroristic threats

Felony Charges

These are the most serious charges someone can face in criminal court. The term felony is not uniform across the United States, so if you are from another state but charged in Pennsylvania, you may not be familiar with it. Our neighboring state, New Jersey, does not uniformly use the term felony, for example. People found guilty of felonies will go to prison instead of jail.

Felonies also have much more variety in their severities, so they have a five-class ranking system for their punishments rather than three. These five classes include:

  • Class A felony – Life imprisonment or the death penalty.
  • Class B felony – 25 or more years in prison.
  • Class C felony – Between 10 and 25 years in prison.
  • Class D felony – Between 5 and 10 years in prison.
  • Class E felony – Between 1 and 5 years in prison.

Felonies can require long trial times and heavy scrutinization during jury selection. Because the stakes are so high, a criminal defense attorney must be actively working on your defense at all times so you can maintain your freedom. Examples of felonies include:

  • Murder
  • Aggravated assault
  • Kidnapping
  • Arson
  • Theft over $2000
  • Drug possession with intent to distribute

What Should You Do if You Are Charged?

Once you are charged, do not say anything to the police or prosecution, other than that you want your lawyer or the ability to contact them. You want to contact Scartelli Olszewski, P.C. immediately so our criminal defense attorneys can defend you.

Every minute counts in a criminal defense case, so it’s of the utmost importance that you do not hesitate to contact our attorneys. We’re always available to help you.

Peter Olszewski
Peter Olszewski

Peter Paul Olszewski, Jr., a shareholder and managing partner at Scartelli Olszewski, P.C., brings 37 years of litigation experience. He is a renowned trial lawyer in Pennsylvania, specializing in medical malpractice, personal injury, and criminal defense. Peter's notable achievements include securing multi-million-dollar verdicts and serving as District Attorney and Judge. He is committed to community involvement and is actively engaged in various legal associations.
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