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Criminal Charges

In New York State there are 3 classifications of offenses:

  • violations (punishable up to 15 days in jail)
  • misdemeanors (punishable up to a maximum of 1 year in jail)
  • felonies (punishable by any state prison sentence of more than 1 year)


There is a significant difference between a violation and a misdemeanor. A violation is not a criminal conviction and the record is generally sealed. If convicted of a violation, you can honestly state that you have not been convicted of a crime on a school or employment application. Misdemeanors and felonies are criminal convictions that stay on your record for the rest of your life.

Criminal charges can range from the First Degree to Seventh Degree. The lower the degree, the more serious the charge, for example, a First Degree charge is more serious than a Third Degree charge. The same is true for the alphabetical letters that accompany the charges, an “A” is the most serious charge. Felonies run from A-1 through E, and misdemeanors are either A or B.

Hiring an experienced criminal attorney early in the process can greatly increase your chances of beating the charges altogether, or having the charges reduced and lowering your sentencing penalties, which also potentially eliminates the consequences associated with a criminal record.


Below are brief definitions of the most common charges in alphabetical order, as well as some common legal terms.

ASSAULT :: Intentionally causing physical injury to another person. Assault can be either a felony or a misdemeanor depending on whether (and what kind of) a weapon was used and how badly the victim was injured.

BURGLARY :: Entering, or unlawfully remaining, in a building with the intent to commit a crime inside. The intent to commit the crime must exist at the time of entry but it is not necessary for any crime to actually be carried out. Burglary can be either a B, C or D felony depending on whether (and what kind of) a weapon was used and whether someone was injured.

CHILD PORNOGRAPHY :: See Sexual Offenses Page

CRIMINAL CONTEMPT :: The violation of a court order of protection -- either “no contact” or “no offensive contact.” Criminal contempt can either be a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the nature of the violation.

CRIMINAL MISCHIEF :: Criminal Mischief is intentionally damaging the property of another person. It can be a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the value of the property damaged.

CRIMINAL POSSESSION/SALE OF CONTROLLED SUBSTANCES OR MARIJUANA :: See Drugs Page

CRIMINAL POSSESSION OF A WEAPON :: See Weapons Page

DISORDERLY CONDUCT :: Disorderly conduct encompasses a wide range of behavior considered offensive to public order. Disorderly conduct is a violation and may be offered in a plea bargain as an alternative to a misdemeanor.

DRIVING WHILE INTOXICATED (DWI, DUI, DWAI) :: See DWI Page

FEDERAL CRIMES :: See Federal Page

HARASSMENT :: Harassment is communicating with a person in a manner likely to cause annoyance or alarm, placing a person in reasonable fear of physical injury, or making a telephone call with no purpose of legitimate communication. Harassment can be either a misdemeanor or violation depending on the nature of the conduct.

HOMICIDE :: See Homicide Page

LARCENY :: Larceny is wrongfully taking or withholding another person's property with the intent to permanently deprive the owner of that property. Larceny can be either a felony (Grand) or misdemeanor (Petit) depending on the value of what was stolen.

MANSLAUGHTER :: See Homicide Page

MENACING :: Menacing is displaying a weapon or engaging in a behavior that intentionally places another person in reasonable fear of physical injury or death. Menacing can be either a felony or misdemeanor depending on whether the defendant has previously been convicted of menacing within the last ten years.

MOLESTATION :: See Sexual Offenses Page

RAPE :: See Sexual Offenses Page

ROBBERY :: Robbery is stealing with force. Force or intimidation is required and the property must have been taken from the victim's person or some location reasonably close to the victim. Robbery can be either a B, C or D felony depending on whether (and what kind of) a weapon was used and if someone was injured.

WHITE COLLAR CRIME :: See White Collar Crime Page