How Are Criminal Offenses Classified?

If you’re accused of a criminal offense in Washington, understanding the classification of that crime is critical to mounting a criminal defense. There are three general classifications of criminal offenses: felonies, misdemeanors, and infractions.


In Washington, a felony is the most serious criminal offense. Common examples of felonies include murder, rape, robbery, and burglary. If you face a Class A felony charge, you could get sentenced to life in prison. A Class B felony charge could result in a sentence of up to ten years in prison while a Class C felony charge could lead to a sentence of up to five years in prison.


A misdemeanor is less serious than a felony and typically results in a shorter jail sentence or fine. Common examples of misdemeanors include assault, DUI, and possession of marijuana. A conviction for a Class A misdemeanor can result in a sentence of up to one year in jail while a Class B misdemeanor conviction can lead to a sentence of up to six months in jail.


An infraction is the least serious criminal offense and typically results in a fine. Common examples of infractions that criminal defense attorneys handle include speeding, jaywalking, and parking violations. A conviction for an infraction typically results in a fine of $100 or less. In some cases, you may need to complete a community service sentence instead of paying the fine.

What About Juvenile Criminal Offenses?

The classification of a criminal offense is the same regardless of the age of the person accused. However, juvenile criminal proceedings are typically handled in a separate court system and may result in different penalties than an adult would face for the same crime. For instance, a juvenile may receive an order to complete community service or attend rehabilitation instead of getting sentenced to jail time.

As you can see, there are a variety of criminal offenses, and the classification of each crime is critical to understanding the potential penalties you may face. If you’re accused of a criminal offense, it’s important to know what to expect, so that you can begin building a strong criminal defense for yourself.

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