Interviewer: What are the different levels of crime? What’s the difference between a misdemeanor, a felony versus and a violation?
Stuart Austin: Starting from the bottom, a violation is the least serious offense; it’s not even considered a crime. On a job application if you were convicted of a violation and somebody said, “Have you ever been convicted of a crime?” you could honestly answer no on the application.
An example of a violation that we give is what we call disorderly conduct. When you hear about the actors who put themselves in the middle of the street and don’t let traffic go by or who go on a picket line, those people usually are convicted of disorderly conduct. It’s a violation, not a crime.
The next step up from that are misdemeanors, which are A misdemeanors and B misdemeanors, which are both crimes. B misdemeanor is less serious than an A misdemeanor. The difference really is that a B misdemeanor is punishable by 90 days in jail, an A misdemeanor is punishable by 1 year in jail. Both of those are the maximum penalties and the minimum penalty is just a fine.
Felonies are the most serious crimes. Those start at the D felony, which is the lowest of real crime and they go backwards in the alphabet up to an A felony, which is the most serious of crimes. Within those designations are also designations of violent felony, which makes it a more serious crime within that A category. Penalties could go anywhere from life imprisonment, depending on what the crime is, for example, major drug charges or murders. Some felony cases, if it’s been plea-bargained, you could end up with only a fine or probation.
Are Different Crimes Tried in Different Courts?
Interviewer: Are misdemeanors heard in the same courts as felonies?
Stuart Austin: Most places in New York state, except very small village and towns, have them in different places. For example, in Long Beach, which is a city in Nassau, they handle their own misdemeanors but they would not handle their felonies. Their felonies go into Mineola court, which is where all the felonies for all of Nassau County are heard.
In the rest of Nassau County, the misdemeanors are handled in Hempstead and the felonies then go to Mineola. The same is true for Suffolk, where their misdemeanors are handled mostly in Central Islip and their felonies go all the way to Riverhead. Most places do separate them.