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Definitions: Felony, Misdemeanor, Offense, and Infraction

by Roy, Christopher


These terms come from the General Statutes of Connecticut:

Felony (General Statutes § 53a-25): An offense for which a person may be sentenced to a term of imprisonment in excess of one year is a felony.

Misdemeanor (General Statutes § 53a-26): An offense for which a person may be sentenced to a term of imprisonment of not more than one year is a misdemeanor.


Offense (General Statutes § 53a-24): The term "offense" means any crime or violation which constitutes a breach of any law of this state or any other state, federal law or local law or ordinance of a political subdivision of this state, for which a sentence to a term of imprisonment or to a fine, or both, may be imposed, except one that defines a motor vehicle violation or is deemed to be an infraction. The term "crime" comprises felonies and misdemeanors. Every offense which is not a "crime" is a "violation". Conviction of a violation shall not give rise to any disability or legal disadvantage based on conviction of a criminal offense.

Infraction (General Statutes Chapter 881b): An infraction is a breach of a state law, regulation or local ordinance so designated by the Legislature, for which an appearance in court is usually not required and payment of the amount due by mail or in person is authorized pursuant to C.G.S. § 51-164n. An infraction is neither a crime nor an offense as defined in the penal code. [Source:]

For a case explaining the four categories of illegal acts, see State v. Menditto, 315 Conn. 861, 110 A. 3d 410 (2015). "Further It is clear, then, that by 1993 the legislature had reclassified illegal acts into four new categories: (1) crimes; (2) major violations, which are deemed to be offenses and for which the maximum penalty is typically a fine of more than $500; (3) minor civil violations, which typically carry a maximum penalty of no more than a $500 fine; and (4) infractions. See General Statutes (Rev. to 1993) § 53a-24."

For more information, see our Law about Criminal Penalties and Law about Criminal Records pages.