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Common Types of Criminal Charges

02/03/2024 Sandra Petric 2769

We are living in a society which follows rules and regulations but many of us don’t know very common laws. So, let’s take a look at some common criminal charges.


Understanding the various types of criminal charges is crucial for individuals navigating the criminal justice system. Criminal charges can generally be divided into two main categories: misdemeanours and felonies. Each category has distinct characteristics and consequences. This blog will explore the differences between misdemeanour and felonies and provide examples of common charges such as theft, assault, DUI, drug offences, and white-collar crimes.


Misdemeanours are considered less severe than felonies and typically carry lighter penalties. They are often punishable by fines, community service, probation, or short-term imprisonment (usually less than one year) in a local or county jail. Misdemeanours are further classified into various levels or classes, depending on the jurisdiction, with Class A or Class 1 misdemeanours being the most serious.


Common examples of misdemeanours include:

Petty Theft: Shoplifting or stealing items of low monetary value.

Simple Assault: Threatening or attempting to cause physical harm without a weapon.

Disorderly Conduct: Engaging in disruptive behaviour in public.

First-Time DUI: Driving under the influence without causing injury or damage.


Felonies are more serious offences that carry harsher penalties, including long-term imprisonment (more than one year) in a state or federal prison, substantial fines, and significant long-term consequences such as loss of voting rights and difficulty obtaining employment. Felonies are also classified into different levels or degrees, with first-degree felonies being the most severe.


Common examples of felonies include:

Grand Theft: Stealing items of high monetary value.

Aggravated Assault: Causing serious injury to another person or using a deadly weapon.

Manslaughter: Unintentionally causing another person's death through reckless behaviour.

Repeat DUI: Multiple DUI offences or DUI resulting in injury or death.


Examples of Common Charges


Theft involves unlawfully taking someone else’s property with the intent to permanently deprive them of it. Theft charges can range from misdemeanours to felonies depending on the value of the stolen property and other circumstances.


Petty Theft (Misdemeanour): Typically involves theft of items worth less than a certain dollar amount (e.g., $500 or $1,000, depending on the state). Common examples include shoplifting and stealing small personal items.


Grand Theft (Felony): Involves stealing items worth more than the threshold amount. This can include stealing high-value electronics, vehicles, or large sums of money.


Assault charges vary based on the severity of the act, the presence of a weapon, and the extent of injuries caused.

  • Simple Assault (Misdemeanour): Involves attempts or threats to cause harm without a weapon and with minor or no injuries. For example, threatening someone with physical harm or a minor altercation resulting in minor injuries.

  • Aggravated Assault (Felony): Involves causing serious bodily injury or using a weapon. Examples include attacking someone with a knife or causing significant injuries that require medical attention.


DUI (Driving Under the Influence)

DUI laws prohibit operating a vehicle while impaired by alcohol or drugs. DUI charges can range from misdemeanours to felonies based on factors such as prior offences and whether the incident resulted in injury or death.


First-Time DUI (Misdemeanour): Usually involves a first-time offender driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) above the legal limit but not causing any injury or property damage.


Felony DUI: Includes repeat offences or DUIs that result in serious injury or death. For example, a driver with multiple DUI convictions who causes a serious accident while impaired.

Drug Offences

Drug-related charges depend on the type and amount of drugs involved, as well as the intent behind the possession (e.g., personal use vs. distribution).


Possession (Misdemeanour/Felony): Simple possession of small amounts of controlled substances for personal use may be charged as a misdemeanour. Possession of larger quantities, especially with intent to distribute, can be a felony.


Trafficking (Felony): Involves the manufacture, distribution, or sale of large quantities of controlled substances. Drug trafficking charges often carry severe penalties due to the organised nature of the crime.


White-Collar Crimes

White-collar crimes are non-violent offences typically committed for financial gain. These crimes often involve deceit, fraud, or breach of trust and are usually charged as felonies.


Fraud (Felony): Involves deceitful practices to secure an unfair or unlawful financial gain. Examples include credit card fraud, insurance fraud, and securities fraud.


Embezzlement (Felony): Occurs when someone entrusted with funds or property misappropriates them for personal use. For example, an employee syphoning company funds into a personal account.


Insider Trading (Felony): Involves trading stocks or other securities based on non-public, material information. This practice is illegal and can lead to significant penalties, including imprisonment and fines.


 Understanding the differences between misdemeanours and felonies, as well as common types of criminal charges, is essential for anyone navigating the criminal justice system. Misdemeanours typically involve less severe offences with lighter penalties, while felonies carry more serious consequences. Common charges such as theft, assault, DUI, drug offences, and white-collar crimes each have unique characteristics and potential penalties.


Being informed about the nature of these charges can help individuals better understand their legal situation and the potential consequences they face. If you or someone you know is facing criminal charges, seeking legal counsel from a qualified attorney is crucial to navigate the complexities of the criminal justice system and to ensure a fair defence.