What are the differences between infractions and misdemeanors?

When you're pulled over in Pennsylvania for a traffic violation, there are different categories of charges that you could end up facing. Two of the categories that most charges fall under are infractions and misdemeanors. Each comes with penalties that have their own level of severity.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines an infraction as any action that infringes on a law. Infringement is considered a lighter offense than a misdemeanor, which is already a lighter offense than a felony. It's essentially the lightest charge you can get if you're facing any sort of traffic violation.

Being charged with an infraction doesn't result in probation or time in jail. Your criminal record also won't be affected. It's possible to get points on your driving record, however, and you'll usually need to pay a fine. In some cases, you may be required to do community service. Failure to fulfill any of these penalties could result in your charge being bumped up to a misdemeanor.

Misdemeanors, on the other hand, are a more severe charge. Not only will you have to pay a fine, but you may even get a jail sentence of up to one year. Your criminal record will also be impacted if you're convicted of a misdemeanor, which can affect your ability to own guns, get jobs, or even rent apartments.

In either case, it's possible for you to contest any charge or seek to have your charges reduced. If either option is a serious consideration for you, seeking the opinion of a legal professional may be a good step to take.

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