When going through the criminal justice system, understanding the terminology is vital. There are three major categories of crime in most U.S. jurisdictions: “infractions,” “misdemeanors” and “felonies.”

The categories typically determine how much jail time is possible for the stated offense. According to FindLaw, the hallmark of misdemeanor charges is that the jail sentence will be no longer than one year.

What are the different types of misdemeanors?

At the federal level, there are different classes of misdemeanor: Class A, Class B and Class C. The most serious misdemeanor is a Class A misdemeanor. With a Class A misdemeanor, a guilty verdict means the courts may sentence you to jail for a year or less but not more than six months.

To compare, a Class B misdemeanor carries a potential sentence of six months or less, but more than 30 days. A Class C misdemeanor has a potential sentence of 30 days or less, but more than five days. Infractions are less serious than misdemeanors are, and usually do not come with any jail potential. An example of a common infraction is a traffic ticket.

What is it like dealing with a misdemeanor charge?

Naturally, much will depend on your particular case. However, in most instances, prosecutors are much more willing to engage in plea bargaining with a misdemeanor charge. This is because misdemeanor charges tend to be less serious than felonious charges.

For example, felonious charges include rape, murder, arson and kidnapping. In these instances, the prosecutors will adhere much more strictly to criminal procedure in order to protect the accused’s rights.