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May 13, 2022

Felonies, Misdemeanors, and Infractions: Criminal Offenses Classification

Let's read about different common criminal offenses in Philadelphia in this post! And if you have been charged with one of them, a we at Tauber Law can help.

Pennsylvania recognizes many different common criminal offenses. If you have been charged with one of them, a Philadelphia criminal defense lawyer can help. There are 3 types of criminal offenses under state law: felonies, misdemeanors, and summaries. Felonies are the most serious, followed by misdemeanors, and finally, infractions, also known as infractions. Criminal offense examples of each of these three categories are listed below.

What Is a Felony?

The best working felony definition in Pennsylvania is any crime more serious than either a summary or a misdemeanor. Even among felonies, however, Pennsylvania recognizes different types of criminal offenses. Tauber Law knows Pennsylvania recognizes five grades of felonies:

  • Felony murder;
  • First-degree felony;
  • Second-degree felony;
  • Third-degree felony; and
  • Ungraded felony.

The prosecutor can charge some crimes, such as theft, in more than one of the foregoing categories, depending on how much money is involved. Ungraded felonies carry the same penalties as third-degree felonies.

First-Degree Felony

Following are a few common first-degree felony examples:

  • Robbery with a deadly weapon;
  • Rape;
  • Kidnapping;
  • Arson, if it endangers human life;
  • Aggravated assault with a deadly weapon; and
  • Theft of at least $500,000.

The maximum penalty for a first-degree felony is 20 years in prison and a $25,000 fine. The minimum prison term is 10 years.

Second-Degree Felony

Some examples of second-degree felonies include:

  • Sexual assault;
  • Robbery where bodily injury is threatened or caused;
  • Involuntary manslaughter of a child under 12;
  • Theft of a firearm;
  • Aggravated assault; and
  • Theft of property worth at least $100,00.

The maximum penalty is 10 years in prison and a $25,000 fine. The minimum prison term is 5 years.

Third-Degree Felony

Examples of third-degree felonies include:

  • Possession of child pornography;
  • Possession of illegal narcotics with intent to distribute;
  • Theft of property worth at least $2,000;
  • Certain serious gun crimes;
  • Bribery of a public official; and
  • Theft of a motor vehicle.

The maximum sentence is seven years in prison and a $15,000 fine. The minimum prison term is 42 months.

Sentencing for Felonies

infraction definition

Capital punishment is legal in Pennsylvania for first-degree murder. Actual executions are very rare in Pennsylvania, however. Pennsylvania judges are subject to mandatory sentencing guidelines stated above for first and second-degree murder and certain violent second or third-strike offenses. With respect to nearly all other offenses, judges have the discretion to impose sentences that contain a minimum and maximum term but will often defer to Pennsylvania sentencing guidelines. A successful plea bargain can reduce prison time below the minimum or even eliminate it altogether. Win an acquittal and you will walk away with no penalty.

Felony Convictions

Felony convictions carry many disadvantages even after you leave prison. Some of these disadvantages include prohibitions on:

  • Obtaining certain government benefits;
  • Owning a firearm;
  • Obtaining student loans;
  • Serving on a jury;
  • Holding public office; and
  • Voting (while in prison);

You also face practical limitations such as difficulty finding a job or renting an apartment.

What Is a Misdemeanor?

A misdemeanor definition might be “crimes that are less serious than felonies but more serious than infractions.” Pennsylvania recognizes four grades of misdemeanor offenses:

  • First-degree;
  • Second-degree;
  • Third-degree; and
  • Ungraded.

Penalties for criminal offenses can include minimum periods of incarceration. Ungraded misdemeanors carry varying penalties depending on the nature of the offense.

First-Degree Misdemeanor

The first-degree misdemeanor is the most serious type of misdemeanor under Pennsylvania law. First-degree misdemeanor examples include:

  • Certain assaults;
  • Multiple DUIs;
  • Terroristic threats;
  • Theft of property worth at least $200; and
  • Stalking.

In Pennsylvania, first-degree misdemeanor penalties can include up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

Second-Degree Misdemeanor

Second-degree misdemeanors include offenses such as:

  • Shoplifting;
  • Resisting arrest;
  • Reckless endangerment of another person;
  • Simple assault;
  • Impersonating a public official;
  • Theft of property worth at least $50; and
  • Bigamy (marriage to two or more spouses at the same time).

The maximum penalty for a second-degree misdemeanor is two years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000. The minimum prison sentence is one year.

Third-Degree Misdemeanor

Some examples of third-degree misdemeanors include:

  • Theft of property worth less than $50;
  • Disorderly conduct;
  • Cyber harassment of a minor; and
  • Public lewdness.

The maximum penalty for a third-degree misdemeanor is one year in jail and a fine of $2,500. The minimum jail time is six months.

What Is an Infraction (Also Known as a Summary)?

Infractions (also known as summary offenses) are not serious criminal offenses. An infraction definition in Pennsylvania might be “any offense that is less serious than either a misdemeanor or a felony.” Infraction examples include:

  • Loitering;
  • Underage drinking;
  • Disorderly conduct (which can also be charged as a misdemeanor);
  • Traffic violations; and
  • Noise violations.

An infraction can carry jail time of up to 90 days and a fine of up to $300. Most defendants, however, do not go to jail for infractions.


If Pennsylvania has charged you with an offense, especially one that could carry jail or prison time, it is a bad idea to try to “go it alone” against aggressive, experienced Philadelphia prosecutors. You need the assistance of a seasoned criminal defense lawyer. Call Alan J. Tauber at (215) 575-0702 or contact us online.

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