Breaking news, this just in: laws are complex! Comes as a shock doesn’t it? If you printed out every law in the United States, each bit of federal, state, and county legislation, and stacked all the documents on top of each other, the stack would be taller than the Empire State Building. In fact, our paper pile would be almost twice the height of America’s most iconic tower! That is a lot of laws to potentially violate. In America, the violation of these laws is split into two different categories of severity: misdemeanors and felonies.

A misdemeanor is a lessor or “minor” criminal act. These minor acts of crime are considered less serious, and less severe than their counterpart in crime, the felony. A list of possible misdemeanor offenses is extremely long. Public intoxication, disorderly conduct, reckless driving, trespassing, vandalism, and lewd behavior are all examples of some common misdemeanor offenses. However, just because something is a misdemeanor is one state, does not mean it is a misdemeanor in every other state. In some states graffiti is considered a misdemeanor form of vandalism, while in other states you can be charged with a felony. Drug possession is another varying offense. The type of drug you possess, and its quantity are both factors in determining whether a violation is a misdemeanor or a felony.

Because the severity of misdemeanors is relatively minor, the punishment for these crimes usually does not result in the forfeiture of civil liberties. Most jurisdictions limit possible jail time for misdemeanor offenses to a 12 month maximum, however there are some notable exceptions, such as Massachusetts, where misdemeanor offenses can net you up to 2.5 years in jail! Usually punishment for a misdemeanor involves probation or the payment of a fine. Citizens of the United States should enjoy living in a country that punishes misdemeanors in such a reasonable and well measured way. Singapore is known for implementing corporal punishment as a penalty for misdemeanors!