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A misdemeanor (also spelled misdemeanour) is a “lesser” criminal act in many common law legal systems. Misdemeanors are generally punished much less severely than felonies, but theoretically more so than administrative infractions (also known as regulatory offenses). Many misdemeanors are punished with monetary fines.

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. One standard for measurement is the degree to which a crime affects others or society. Measurements of the degree of seriousness of a crime have been developed.