Many states group criminal offenses into two categories: misdemeanors
and felonies. A misdemeanor is a lesser offense, such as theft, and the
punishment is typically less than one year in a local jail. Felonies
are serious crimes, such as rape, sexual abuse, murder, and kidnapping,
and offenders usually receive a sentence of more than one year in
prison. Some states refer to criminal offenses in terms of degrees.
A fourth-degree offense, such as mischief, is less serious than a
first-degree crime, such as murder. Infractions are the least-serious
criminal offenses, which include vandalism and traffic violations.