The Difference Between Infractions and Misdemeanors in Fairfax

Being charged with a criminal offense in Virginia is a serious matter. While misdemeanors are less serious than felony crimes, they are punishable by jail time, steep fines, and other penalties. Traffic infractions, on the other hand, are violations of the public code — not criminal offenses. This means that they are not punishable by jail time. However, the penalties can still have negative consequences on your wallet as well as your driving privilege. Whether you are charged with DUI, assault, or reckless driving, an experienced attorney can advocate for your rights and help you mount a solid defense.


According to Virginia code § 18.2-8, “Traffic infractions are violations of public order as defined in § 46.2-100 and not deemed to be criminal in nature.” Some examples of infractions include:

  • Failing to obey a highway sign or lane marking
  • Failing to come to a complete stop at a red light before turning right
  • Driving too close to a vehicle
  • Driving with a taillight or headlight that does not work
  • Improper passing
  • Failing to yield
  • Improper turn
  • Making an illegal U-turn
  • Running a red light

Like most states, Virginia uses a point system for traffic infraction penalties. Depending on the offense, you might receive 3-6 points in addition to fines. Points stay on your record for 2 years and can result in higher insurance rates and license revocation or suspension.


Again, unlike infractions, misdemeanors are crimes. If accused of a misdemeanor offense, you could face up to a year of imprisonment and up to $2,500 in fines. There are four types of misdemeanor crimes:

  1. Class 1 — These are the most serious misdemeanor and includes offenses like shoplifting and drunk driving. Penalties include jail for not more than twelve months and a fine of not more than $2,500, either or both.
  2. Class 2 — You might be charged with a class 2 misdemeanor in Virginia if you are arrested for driving without a valid license, for example. The penalties for crimes in this class are imprisonment for not more than six months and a fine of not more than $1,000, either or both.
  3. Class 3 — If police charge you with unintentionally damaging property or a public monument, a class 3 misdemeanor, you face a fine of no more than $500.
  4. Class 4 — Public intoxication is an example of a class 4 misdemeanor. The penalty is a fine of no more than $250.

No matter if you face an infraction or misdemeanor charges, you need professional guidance. A skilled defense lawyer can quickly review your case and lay out a decisive strategy for success.

Contact a reputable defense attorney in Virginia

Throughout Northern Virginia, attorney Eric Clingan at The NoVa Law Firm is known for providing clients with effective criminal defense counsel. To discuss your criminal defense case with Eric today, call (703) 352-9347 or contact us online.

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About the Author: Eric Clingan

About the Author: Eric Clingan

Eric Clingan is an experienced Criminal Defense attorney and the founder of the NoVA Law firm. He focuses his practice on defending residents of Northern Virginia charged with DUIs, reckless driving, drug charges, and other criminal accusations

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