Misdemeanors are criminal offenses that are punishable by up to a year in jail. Punishment for misdemeanors can also include payment of a fine, probation, community service, and restitution. Defendants charged with misdemeanors are entitled to a jury trial. Indigent defendants charged with misdemeanors are entitled to legal representation at government expense. Some states subdivide misdemeanors by class or by degree or define more serious misdemeanor offenses as “gross misdemeanors.” These classifications determine the severity of punishment. Misdemeanors are a category of criminal charges. They are generally less serious than felony charges, but more serious than citations or infractions. Misdemeanors typically involve minor damage to property or minor injury to another person. Each state may have different definitions of the term “misdemeanor” in their criminal law statutes. In some cases, felony charges can be reduced to misdemeanor charges.
Legal penalties for misdemeanor convictions usually involve some sort of criminal fine, as well as a short period of jail time. Misdemeanor sentences usually involve a maximum of one year in a county jail; felony charges result in sentences of higher than one year in a federal facility rather than a county facility. Often, what differentiates a misdemeanor from a felony is the severity of the crime. For example, theft crimes under a certain dollar amount—typically identified as petty theft or petty larceny—are generally misdemeanors, but theft crimes over a certain dollar amount—grand theft or grand larceny—will be tried as felony offenses. Some minor drug offenses, such as possession, are customarily misdemeanors, unless the evidence suggests that the possession was with the intent to sell, which may make the charge a felony.
Other crimes considered misdemeanors include: most DUI/DWI charges, shoplifting, vandalism, prostitution. Even though a misdemeanor results in a lesser punishment, it will still appear on your criminal record.
No matter what types of misdemeanor charges may be involved, it’s in your best interests to hire a qualified criminal lawyer if you need help with a case. Your attorney can provide you with valuable legal advice, research, and representation in your defense. Criminal laws may vary by state, and state-appointed defense lawyers may have conflicts of interest with the client. Thus, it’s often recommended to hire attorney at Law Offices of Neil Weissman for help with charges.