All crimes committed in Massachusetts fall within two broad categories: misdemeanors and felonies. While you may think that the difference between the two depends on the severity of the crime authorities allege you committed, technically this is not true.
Mass.gov explains that per Massachusetts law, the real difference between misdemeanors and felonies consists of where you serve your sentence if you receive a conviction.
If convicted of a misdemeanor and the penalty includes jail time, you will, in fact, serve your sentence in a city or county jail, not a state prison. Misdemeanors include such things as the following:
- Traffic infractions, such as speeding, failure to signal and other minor offenses
- Most criminal motor vehicle offenses
- First or second conviction for offenses related to drunk driving
- Disorderly conduct
Keep in mind that many traffic violations result in only the payment of a fine if the court convicts you. You may serve no jail time at all.
If convicted of a felony and the penalty includes jail time, you will, in fact, serve your sentence in one of the state’s prisons. Felonies include such things as the following:
- Third or more conviction for drunk driving
Master Crime List
When an officer issues you a citation, read it carefully. It will include a citation to the specific crime you allegedly committed that resulted in the citation. Using this citation, you can go online to the Massachusetts’ Master Crime List to find out not only more about the crime itself, but also the possible penalties you face if convicted.