Not all crimes are the same. Likewise, not all potential penalties for crimes are the same either. It is important to understand how the law uses different classifications of crime if you are working through the criminal justice system. 
 
The three major divisions of crimes are infractions, misdemeanors, and felonies. According to Findlaw, a misdemeanor is a crime that has a penalty of up to one year in jail and not more. 
 
How is a misdemeanor different from an infraction? 
 
Infractions are by far the most mild breach of the law. If you incur an infraction, you will likely face a fine and will have no associated criminal record. In the event that you do end up with a jail sentence related to an infraction, it will be for no longer than 5 days. A common example of an infraction that most Americans incur at least once in their lives is a traffic ticket.
 
Misdemeanors are more serious crimes than infractions. If the court convicts you of a misdemeanor, you are much more likely to end up with the jail sentence as compared to an infraction. 
 
How is a misdemeanor different from a felony? 
 

Felonies, on the other hand, are much more serious than misdemeanors. Felony crimes can have associated punishments of life in prison or even the death sentence. Common examples of felony crimes include arson, murder, kidnapping, and rape. 
 
Misdemeanors are often punished by a fine and potential probation rather than jail (though a jail sentence is possible). Common examples of misdemeanor crimes are petty theft, vandalism, and public drunkenness.