Pub. date: 2004 | Online Pub. Date: September 15, 2007 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412952415 | Print ISBN: 9780761926498 | Online ISBN: 9781412952415| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Historically, under English common law, misdemeanors referred to all offenses except treason and felonies. Felonies were offenses requiring some forfeiture of a person's life and/or property. However, unlike felonies and treason, misdemeanor offenses could be further classified as either mala in se (wrong in themselves) or mala prohibita (wrong according to statute, but not wrong in themselves). Today, in the United States, misdemeanors remain less serious offenses than felonies, which usually require more than a year of incarceration in a prison or death, and more serious offenses than infractions, otherwise called “violations,” which are punishable by a small fine and carry no right to a trial or the benefit of counsel. The differences among all three are largely a matter of the sanctions involved. For misdemeanors, the sanction may include incarceration in a jail for no longer than a year or some combination of the following: probation, suspended sentence, mandatory ...