John R. Garey
What is a Misdemeanor?
A misdemeanor is a category of charges that are considered to be minor wrongdoings, and these types of charges will often carry the least harsh penalties should a party be convicted. Many crimes can be either defined as a misdemeanor or felony depending upon the individual situations revolving around the event. If a person has multiple convictions of the same type, they may face a harsher felony charge even if all of their previous offenses are considered to be misdemeanors. Also, if crime which is typically considered to be misdemeanor is carried out violently or to a certain extreme, a person may face felony charges.
The most substantial difference that is found when comparing misdemeanors and felonies is the consequences that come along with guilty convictions. For a felony, more time may be served, larger fines may need to be paid, and overall harsher penalties will be given. In the instance of a misdemeanor crime, however, a person will receive a lessened jail sentence that is typically served in a county jail rather than a prison, less fines, and an overall less significant penalty.
When it comes to expungements, misdemeanors can typically be cleared from one’s criminal record. To expunge a crime is to wipe it from a record, and this is often beneficial to those who have been convicted as it will allow them an easier time in gaining employment, housing, or meeting other life goals. A person with a clear criminal record will not have the fear of their past haunting their future, and misdemeanor charges are typically able to be cleared. In cases of felonies, however, expungement is a far more difficult process that will often take years should the conviction be eligible at all.
When a person faces a misdemeanor crime conviction, their penalties will typically result in one or more of the following:
- Up to 1 year in a county jail
- Fines of around a $2,000 maximum
These penalties will vary on a case by case basis, and not all convictions will carry the same consequences. The harshest misdemeanor penalties will be reserved for crimes that fit, while the easiest will be reserved for the most minor.
Common Types of Misdemeanor Crimes
Many different crimes can be categorized as either a misdemeanor or felony, and having a misdemeanor conviction typically means that the crime carried out was less severe. Some common crimes that often go both ways are assault, indecent exposure, theft, or DUI cases.
If an assault is not found to cause serious bodily harm, or a person’s unknown negligence caused the incident, they will most likely be charged with a misdemeanor offense. Indecent exposure misdemeanor crimes will involve a person who does not have extensive prior convictions and their crime did not involve a minor in any way. In cases of theft, the value of the property being stolen will directly determine if a crime is charged on the misdemeanor or felony level, with higher value thefts carrying felony charges.
Cases of DUI can be a bit more complicated in terms of felony or misdemeanor charges, and a person’s state as well as individual situation should always be taken into account. For some states, any DUI charge after a certain number of prior convictions will be considered a felony rather than a misdemeanor, and DUIs with high blood alcohol levels involved can also cause charges to be raised. However, some DUIs are considered to be misdemeanor situations, and thereby carry lesser consequences.
Misdemeanor charges are often categorized into different degrees of severity, and crimes that are particularly severe may carry with them gross misdemeanor charges. These types of charges are given when an act is not severe enough to be considered a felony, but still considered to be on the higher end of the severity scale. Punishments for gross misdemeanor convictions of any kind will carry the harshest possible penalty levels.
What to do if Facing Misdemeanor Charges
If a person is facing misdemeanor charges, they will then face the court system of their area to determine if they will be convicted. During the court process the initial court visitation is called the arraignment, and during this visit a person facing a misdemeanor charge will learn their rights, be asked if they plan to seek the assistance of an attorney, and plead guilty, not guilty, or no-contest to the charges at hand.
It is important for those facing misdemeanor charges to seek an attorney that specializes in the crime for which they are being charged. An experienced attorney will be able to help a person facing misdemeanor charges to build a case which gives them the best possible outcome depending on their individual situation, and this is done by careful preparations and the building of a solid defense. Depending on the crime and the plea, a person may have an available defense that allows their charges to be dropped or lessened to ensure easier punishment, and these defenses are best represented in court through the assistance of an attorney.
While misdemeanor charges will carry much less severe punishments than felonies, and while they are easier to expunge from one’s criminal record, facing a misdemeanor charge is still a serious event. Misdemeanor conviction can lead a person to experience financial hardship as well as a great deal of inconvenience, making it even more important that an attorney is sought.