Felonies, Misdemeanors, and Infractions

Type of Crimes in California

In California, crimes are divided into three classifications—infractions, misdemeanors, and felonies. The differences between infractions, misdemeanors, felonies, and felony strikes present many complex issues. For additional information, contact the Virga Law Firm for a Free Case Evaluation.


The most common infraction are auto related moving violations. These are often California Vehicle Code (CVC) infractions for conduct such as driving at an unsafe speed (CVC 22350) or for running a red light (CVC 21453(a)).

More serious infractions that may also wobble to a misdemeanor include Penal Code section 415, Disturbing the Peace.


Misdemeanors are crimes whose punishment is up to one-year in county jail and a fine of (in general) a $1,000. Frequently, misdemeanor jail sentences may be served through alternative sentencing, such as home detention or Sheriff’s work project.


Felonies are crimes that are punished with more than 1-year in state prison and potentially up to life or even a sentence of death. Felonies can also have significant fines. Common felonies include drug sales cases, robbery, sex crimes, and assault with a deadly weapon.

Other Types of Crimes in California:


Certain crimes are referred to as “wobblers.” This means that the crimes “wobble” between two classifications. So, these crimes may be prosecuted as either misdemeanors or felonies. There are also crimes that wobble between infractions and misdemeanors.


California enacted the Three Strikes Sentencing law in 1994. The law is very complex and has been changed numerous times. Strikes are also referred to as “serious felonies” or “violent felonies.” A strike allegation can drastically change a criminal case, including changing how much time must be served in prison on a sentence. Additionally, if someone is charged in a current case with a felony and there is a “prior strike” alleged, the sentence on the current case could be doubled.