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The following is for informational purposes only

What is An Infraction?

If any police officer has ever pulled you over, you might have been given a ticket. Tickets represent infraction charges being placed due to a crime being committed. Infractions are the most minor crimes that the authorities can charge.

In some areas, they are punishable by fines and are also called petty misdemeanors. Examples of infractions vary by state, but some mainstream ones include speeding, jaywalking, littering, and loitering. In contrast, more severe crimes are classified under different guidelines–protecting property and human victims.

Is an Infraction a Crime?

Infractions are crimes and act as smaller versions of misdemeanors and felonies. If enough are accumulated without being removed, they can become misdemeanors—that means jail time. Infractions are also crimes in that they are punishable by authorities; crimes committed below this threshold cannot be charged.

Note: not all states will charge infractions in the same manner, if at all. This means that what is an infraction in one state may not be an infraction in another. The same rules apply for any state misdemeanor or felony charge—they can be different across state lines. Further, the severity of a crime may be different—changing not only the type of crime but the subclasses too. The difference in infractions could mean hundreds of dollars.

What Does Infraction Mean?

"Infraction" refers to the violation of a law or contract; used in business terminology, it is grounds for "divorcing" underperforming business partners. Crimes considered infractions are, in some way, breaking an agreed-upon contract. The contract they are said to break is the social and driving rules all of us agree to.

For example, social rules dictate we shouldn’t urinate on government buildings; at the same time, speeding is a commonly broken rule. Both situations can result in an infraction charge and fines. These "rules" being broken are why these crimes are not considered criminal crimes—despite being crimes themselves. Said another way, infractions are crimes, but misdemeanors and felonies carry criminal charges.

What Are Felonies and Misdemeanors?

While infractions are the smallest punishments a person can receive in the courts, felonies are the largest. Felony charges are usually reserved for heinous acts and extreme situations. For example, first-degree murder is a common felony charge when the murder is premeditated. Additionally, some states punish severe felony charges with death or life imprisonment.

On another note, misdemeanors are the middle-of-the-road option in categorizing a crime’s severity. They are usually crimes that come with a minimum jail time of a month and a low fine. Both charges come up in background checks, disturb employment opportunities, and reinforce habitual criminality in underprivileged areas.

Commonly Asked Questions About Infractions

Does an Infraction Go on Your Record?

Although infractions are minor crimes, their severity is still important—this is what decides if it goes on the record. Aspects like intent, prior run-ins with police, or offenses committed willingly may all be contributing factors. That said, many facets go into consideration to determine severity.

For example, infractions are sometimes separated into traffic and non-traffic incidents. The distinction is important because traffic infractions may not appear on a criminal background check; instead, they’ll appear on a driving records check. Additionally, this means there are two ways a person can obtain attention from the authorities.

Does an infraction stay on your record? Depending on location, criminal offenses aren’t subject to the same demands as traffic infractions. Traffic infractions, in particular, can quickly pile up into misdemeanor charges. At the same time, lawyers can file to have any record-sticking violations "expunged" or removed. In some cases, entire criminal histories can be removed, provided they meet the strict requirements.

I Got Pulled Over. What are My Options?

There are two ways a person can choose to deal with infraction fines. The first option is to pay the fine and finish the process. On the other hand, a person may dispute these charges, in which case they head to court. We should note that although the accused may be in court, traffic court does not provide representation; the reason for this is that the crimes are typically petty, and the accused should be able to explain the situation to the judge.

Traffic court isn’t pleasant but pleading your case before a judge may result in better results than accruing more points. Getting too many points can result in the loss of a driving license. Additionally, if the accused goes to court and the officer doesn’t show up, the judge may dismiss the charges entirely.

How Does the Fine Repayment Process Work?

Infractions are most commonly associated with traffic violations, so they are also called tickets or citations. Those who commit an offense are given a ticket copy at the beginning of the process. Those who do not take the copy now will be sent a copy to their home in the mail. All citations will include similar information:

  • The case number or ticket number
  • A summary of the violation and category of severity
  • The relevant state laws or city codes being violated
  • The address of the relevant institution for inquiries
  • The name and information of the issuing agency and officer
  • Deadlines for either paying the fine or appearing in court
  • Detailed instructions for the repayment process

Each town and jurisdiction may have unique methods for collecting payment for the fines. Some towns require payments to the police directly; others require payment to a third party or township. Those who have been given an infraction are strongly encouraged to read the payment details on the ticket carefully.

Examples of Infractions

Everyone knows speeding and traffic violations are infractions, but there are many others in the world:

  • Drinking in public or public intoxication
  • Operating a business without appropriate equipment or documentation
  • Fishing or hunting without proper licenses
  • Boating violations (to match traffic violations)
  • Jaywalking or littering
  • Disturbing the peace or excessive noise complaints
  • Building code or remodeling violations
  • Some drug possession cases
  • Trespassing on a fenced property
  • Intellectual property infringement
  • Copyright, patent, or trademark violations

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