The Crime Ladder Explored

On any given day, an individual might leave home in the morning and commit a number of civil law violations – some intentional, some unintentional – before returning home at night. For example, many people commit traffic infractions by driving faster than the posted speed limit. On the other end of the spectrum, criminal law violations range from minor to very severe. But what constitutes a ‘crime?’ One literal definition of the term is “…behavior, either by act or omission, defined by statutory or common law as deserving of punishment.”

Types of Crimes

The Washington Criminal Code spells out the classifications of crimes:

  • Felonies: Felonies are the most serious class of crimes in Washington. The maximum penalties can be up to life in prison and a $50,000 fine.
  • Misdemeanors and Gross Misdemeanors: Crimes punishable by either a fine up to one thousand dollars, imprisonment in a county jail for up to ninety days, or both. Any crime that is not a felony or misdemeanor is a gross misdemeanor.

Below is a breakdown of the different levels within each type.


Washington has three categories of felonies: Class A, Class B, and Class C.

Class A Felonies include:

  • Murder, first- and second-degree, as well as homicide caused by child abuse;
  • Rape, in most cases; and
  • Assault with a deadly weapon, which is a physical assault with any object that could cause bodily harm or death.

Class B Felonies include:

  • Second-degree manslaughter caused by criminal negligence;
  • Auto theft; and
  • Stalking in violation of a restraining order.

Finally, the following crimes are examples of Class C felonies:

  • Electronic data theft;
  • Third-degree assault; and
  • Certain fourth-degree assault involving domestic violence.

Misdemeanors and Gross Misdemeanors

While often considered less serious than felonies, these crimes can still carry heavy fines and jail time. The following crimes are a few of the misdemeanors recognized by Washington law:

Gross misdemeanors include:

  • Driving while under the influence;
  • Certain violations of a domestic violence protection order;
  • Minor drug offenses.

If You Commit a Crime, You Need a Criminal Defense Lawyer

Whether you intended to do something wrong or something happened in the heat of the moment, you may need legal representation. Call (425) 747-0582 for a free consultation with lawyer Sarah Cho at Peak Justice. She gladly uses her experience and training to assist clients like you. From her office located in Bellevue, Washington, Ms. Cho represents clients throughout the Seattle area.

The sooner you call, the faster we can help!

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