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What is an Infraction? - Definition, Meaning & Examples

Instructor: Erin Krcatovich

Erin teaches undergraduate and graduate classes in Political Science, Public Policy, and Public Administration and has a PhD in Political Science.

In this lesson, we will learn about the least serious offense in our justice system, an infraction. We will also look at some examples of infractions and compare infractions to the more serious offenses of misdemeanors and felonies.

Infractions

An infraction is the least serious offense in our criminal justice system. For these types of offenses, you will be assessed with a fine but there will be no probation or jail time attached to your offense. Many people will be found guilty of infractions in their lifetimes. A traffic violation like not wearing a seat belt, failing to stop at a stop sign, parking at an expired meter, and in some cases, disturbing the peace, are all considered infractions.

Although an infraction is not a crime in the United States there is still some punishment, a fine, which you must pay if you are found guilty. You may choose to pay for an attorney to represent you over the infraction, but you must pay for it out of your own pocket. Because an infraction is not considered a ''criminal'' offense, the court will not provide an attorney for you nor do you have the right to a jury trial. Instead, you have the right to a bench trial, where you can go before a judge and plead your case in an attempt to have him or her dismiss the charges or reduce the fine.

In addition, because an infraction is not a ''criminal offense,'' it will not become part of your criminal record if you are found guilty. As such, infractions will not be disclosed in a background check and you are not legally obligated to report infractions on a job application. The traffic court, however, will keep a record of traffic violations.

Comparison to Misdemeanors and Felonies

Unlike infractions, misdemeanors and felonies are criminal offenses and if you plead guilty or are found guilty at trial, they will become a part of your criminal record.

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