Understanding the Different Levels of Legal Charges

Legal charges are a serious matter and understanding the different levels of charges is important for anyone who may be facing legal consequences. From minor infractions to major felonies, each level of charge comes with its own set of potential penalties and consequences. In this article, we will explore the different levels of legal charges and what they mean.


Infractions are minor offenses that typically result in a fine or citation, such as traffic violations, littering, or public disturbance. These charges do not carry the possibility of jail time and are considered non-criminal offenses. While infractions are not considered serious, they can still have negative consequences, such as a mark on your driving record or a fine that can impact your finances.


Misdemeanors are more serious than infractions and are considered criminal offenses. They can carry penalties such as fines, probation, community service, and up to one year in jail. Examples of misdemeanors include simple assault, petty theft, or possession of small amounts of drugs. Depending on the circumstances of the crime, a misdemeanor charge can be upgraded to a felony.


Felonies are the most serious level of criminal charges and can carry harsh penalties, including lengthy prison sentences and large fines. Examples of felonies include murder, rape, or large-scale drug trafficking. A felony conviction can have lifelong consequences, such as difficulty finding employment or obtaining housing, loss of voting rights, and restrictions on firearm ownership.

Capital Offenses:

Capital offenses are the most severe criminal charges and carry the possibility of the death penalty. These charges are reserved for the most heinous crimes, such as murder or treason. Capital offenses are subject to extensive legal procedures and require a jury trial to determine guilt or innocence.

What to do if You Get Stopped for a DUI or DWI

1. Locate a safe location to pull over.

Bear in mind that as soon as the officer decides to pull you over for a DUI or DWI, he begins making observations for the police report. To begin the stop, he has already noted something that he believes indicates you are driving while intoxicated or impaired. While you cannot change those observations at this time, the police report can significantly effect the outcome of any hearings in the future and your criminal trial relating to the suspension or revocation of your driver’s license. The officer will almost certainly take note of how you pull over. If you drive recklessly, abruptly slow down, or pull over in an unsafe area, the officer notes it in the report, adding another tick to the drunk or impaired column.

2. Avoid any abrupt or suspicious movements.
Officers are first and foremost educated to be cautious and to defend themselves. They constantly approach the automobile from behind, giving them a great view, and forcing the driver to totally turn around to shoot or assault them. Therefore, avoid making rapid movements, turning around to watch the police approach, jumping out of the car, or attempting to crouch in embarrassment. Indeed, your best course of action is to keep your hands on the wheel between the hours of 10:00 and 2:00 until the officer approaches your window and requests to see your identification.

3. Be courteous.
The apparent reason to treat the officer with respect is that you are significantly less likely to get detained if the officer believes you are being sincere. If you are disrespectful, insincere, or confrontational with the officer, the officer is much more likely to take offense, arrest you, and do all possible to condemn you, including producing a highly incriminating police report. If the officer requests that you exit the vehicle, you must obey or risk being punished with resisting arrest. Be extremely helpful and nice, as if you have nothing else to do than comply with the officer’s wishes, which you, quite frankly, do not. Naturally, avoid appearing disingenuous in your efforts to be helpful or kind, as this may be just as off-putting as direct sarcasm.

4. Avoid answering any questions that could be regarded as incriminating, but do not lie.
Police personnel are trained to exploit your fear of being pulled over. Individuals are significantly more inclined to incriminate themselves in this type of situation, particularly if they are not telling the truth. While you are required to provide the police officer with your name, license, registration, and insurance information, if the officer inquires as to whether you have been drinking or how much—and you are concerned about incriminating yourself—simply state, “I’m sorry, officer, but I’ve been advised not to answer any questions.” You will almost certainly face significant pressure at that point, you may be arrested, and your license may be automatically revoked, but none of those consequences are nearly as bad as serving time in jail for self-incrimination.

If you’ve had even one or just two drinks, you should use caution in stating so. With few exceptions, one or two drinks will not push you over the legal limit, but this varies by individual and drink, so when in doubt, stay silent.

It is never a good idea to lie. If you respond to a question, do so truthfully. If you lie and the officer is aware of it, the officer’s knowledge can and very certainly will be used against you in court.

5. Refusal to submit to a field sobriety test.
You are not legally required to administer a field sobriety test. Field sobriety tests are one of the most powerful tools an officer has to gather evidence against you, not because they are reliable markers of intoxication, but because they provide the officer with subjective observations upon which to base his determination that you are inebriated. Again, if you choose to refuse a field sobriety test it could result in the suspension of your driver’s license, but would you rather have a scientific examination determine that you were not drunk or impaired (and thus avoid jail time for DUI or DWI) or have a jury hear an hour of testimony from a uniformed police officer about how stinking drunk he subjectively believed you were based on a very unscientific field sobriety test?

6. Refuse to take a breathalyzer test using a hand-held device.
Roadside breathalyzers are notoriously unreliable, and their findings can be manipulated in an infinite number of ways. Refusing to “blow” almost always results in automatic license suspension, but this is far less serious than going to jail. Therefore, refrain from blowing while driving. On the other hand, you may be compelled to submit to additional testing at the police station, such as blood samples or a more sophisticated breathalyzer. If you are taken into custody and ordered to submit to these tests at the police station, do not refuse; otherwise, you will be charged with resisting arrest.

7. Submit to a chemical examination at the police station.
By law, you are required to submit to a chemical test at the police station. You can pick between a blood test and a breath test in the majority of states. Numerous DUI attorneys urge clients to submit to breath tests since they are more unreliable, allowing their legitimacy to be challenged more effectively in court.

8. Once released, jot down all you recall regarding your arrest.
The more detailed notes you keep concerning your arrest, the easier it will be for your attorney to defend you against the allegations. Because fresh memories are frequently more accurate, do this as quickly as possible.

Make a list of anything that comes to mind, even if it does not seem quite relevant. For instance, the performance of numerous roadside sobriety tests can be influenced by factors such as the clothing you are wearing (tight skirt, high heels, etc.).

9. Speak with an attorney.
You require and deserve the services of a professional DUI or DWI defense attorney who will aggressively defend your rights. The most critical thing you can do for yourself is to retain the services of a knowledgeable attorney who is familiar with the applicable laws for each state and can assist you throughout the legal process.

Additional Resources: