A misdemeanor (also spelled misdemeanour) is any 'lesser' criminal act in some common law legal systems. Misdemeanors are generally punished less severely than felonies, but theoretically more so than administrative infractions (also known as minor, petty or summary offences) and regulatory offences. Many misdemeanors are punished with monetary fines. Contraventions are similar to misdemeanors in many civil law countries (e.g. France, Italy, Spain, Belgium, Switzerland etc.). In the United States, the federal government generally considers a crime punishable with incarceration for one year or less to be a misdemeanor. All other crimes are considered felonies. Many states also employ this distinction. A misdemeanor is considered a crime of low seriousness, and a felony one of high seriousness. A principal of the rationale for the degree punishment meted out is that the punishment should fit the crime.
Contributions by Jasonfward, James500, and BD2412.