A person charged with misdemeanor charges is accused of committing a “lesser” criminal act. In general, misdemeanor charges are punished much less severely than felonies, although a person charged with a misdemeanor still faces far more serious charges than an individual who as committed administrative infractions, also known as regulatory infractions.
Although misdemeanor charges are only filed in common law jurisdictions, the same distinction is made in civil law jurisdictions. In civil law countries, such as France, Italy, Spain, Switzerland or Belgium, misdemeanor charges are known as contraventions.
In the United States of America, misdemeanor charges may force the person charged with these offenses to spend a period of incarceration of less than a year, with all crimes that require longer periods of incarceration to be felonies.
However, many other common law countries, such as the Common wealth nations of Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the United Kingdom no longer make the same distinctions; instead of felony and misdemeanor charges, they identify summary offenses and indictable offenses.
An individual convicted of misdemeanor charges is known as a misdemeanor. Common violations that may result in a person being charged with misdemeanor charges are petty theft, prostitution, public intoxication, simple assault, disorderly conduct, trespass, vandalism, drug possession, reckless driving, and other similar charges.
Conviction on misdemeanor charges may not result in the loss of civil rights, although they may cause individuals to lose privileges such as licenses, public office, or public employment.