Have you been accused of a misdemeanor but aren’t sure what it is? Perhaps someone you know has been charged with a misdemeanor and you don’t know what that means? Or maybe you are curious and want to know more? Whatever your reason might be, we have the answer for you!
We know how confusing legal jargon can be. It seems to be deliberately difficult, set up to confuse you and leave you unsure what is happening or where to turn. And a misdemeanor seems to be one of those words.
Sure we hear it on crime shows, or in our day-to-day lives, but what does it mean? What is a misdemeanor?
You find yourself searching for the answers, but try as you might, you just can’t find out. No matter who you ask or what you search, you come up empty-handed. It starts to frustrate you and you wonder, how can you charge people with something and not tell them what it is?
Well, no more! Today we are here with the answers you need. Keep reading to find out what a misdemeanor is, see some examples, and learn more about the charge. Get ready to become an expert today!
What Is A Misdemeanor?
Let’s get straight into it! A misdemeanor is a minor crime that is typically punished with a fine or a short jail sentence. Misdemeanors are criminal acts but are seen as less serious than a felony.
What classes as a misdemeanor can vary depending on your county or state, so it’s always best to check your laws! Generally speaking though, these are low-level crimes, often where little or no harm has been caused to others. We usually see a crime classed as a misdemeanor if it warrants jail time of less than a year.
In some cases, certain crimes can either be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. The charge of these cases is decided at the discretion of a prosecutor and are known as wobblers. Remember, this can vary, so it’s always best to check your county or state laws for more accurate and up-to-date information.
A misdemeanor is tried in a local municipal or justice court, where you are either fined or sentenced to prison in county jail. This is different from federal or state prisons, which are usually home to those that have committed more serious crimes and have longer jail sentences as a result.
That is not to say it is okay to commit a misdemeanor. These are still crimes and you should not be committing these crimes or violating the laws, just because there is a lower punishment on them. Remember, if you are ever unsure, check the laws in your county or state.
What Counts As A Misdemeanor?
Now that we have covered what a misdemeanor is, let’s take a look at some examples. Now, every state has a different system that classifies misdemeanors and felonies. You can find out what these classifications are by checking your state’s penal code.
Typically, misdemeanors are divided into Class 1 to Class 3, or Class A to Class C. Class 1 and A are the most serious crimes and will have the highest penalties, with the lower classes having lower fines or jail time.
Some states or jurisdictions also recognize unclassified misdemeanors, or Class 4 or Class D. These are viewed on a case by case basis and the punishment is determined at the judge’s discretion. This could be a fine rather than jail time, as we don’t often see a sentence for Class 4 or D misdemeanors.
However, this can change if the person is a repeat offender. This goes for all classes of misdemeanors. If you have previous charges then you can expect a higher penalty.
To help you understand the different types of misdemeanors, let’s take a closer look at these classes now and offer you some examples of what a misdemeanor could be!
Class A Or One Misdemeanor
Class A or 1 misdemeanor are the most serious and tend to have similar sentences to lesser felonies. These crimes often have a hefty fine and up to twelve months in prison too. Remember, this can be different for repeat offenders who are likely to have heftier fines or longer jail sentences.
Class A or One misdemeanor can vary from state to state, but usually, they include the following:
- Violating a restraining order
- Resisting arrest
- DUI with no bodily injury
- Assault that causes bodily injury
- Possession of a controlled substance
- Unlawful possession of a weapon
Class B or Two Misdemeanor
Next, we have Class B or Two misdemeanors which are considered to be less severe than Class A. When being charged with these, the prosecution takes into account the nature or severity of the crime, along with the defendant’s character and if they have a criminal record or not.
These factors will determine the cost of the fine and if there is jail time too. Remember, the crimes classed as a B or Two misdemeanor can vary from state to state, so be sure to check your penal code to find out more. Generally, though, the following are classed as Class B or Two misdemeanors:
- Theft of property worth more than $50 and less than $500
- Indecent exposure
- Criminal mischief
- Criminal trespass
- Certain types of assault
- Certain types of terror threats
Class C or Three Misdemeanor
A Class C or Three misdemeanors are minor crimes that will usually not include jail time as a punishment. For those repeat offenders though, there is likely to be a higher fine or jail time.
It can vary depending on the state, so be sure to check your local penal code to see what is classed as a Class C or Three misdemeanors. Usually, we see the following listed as a Class C or Three misdemeanors:
- Theft of property worth less than $50
- Disorderly conduct
- Certain types of assault
- Criminal mischief
- Reckless damage or destruction
- Leaving a child unattended in a vehicle
- Issuing a bad check
- Falsely reporting a missing person or child
- Criminal trespass
Understanding Legal Terms
When covering the different types of misdemeanors, there are some terms used that can be quite vague and confusing, especially if you are not well versed with legal terminology. So let’s take a quick look at some of these today before you go!
Criminal Trespass – this is when you unlawfully and knowingly enter or stay in a property that is fenced, enclosed, or secure to keep intruders out. This includes a dwelling or any other premises.
Criminal Mischief – is when you recklessly or intentionally damage another’s property. This includes damaging, defacing, altering, and destroying tangible property.
Expungement – sealing arrest and conviction records
Terroristic threat – is a threat to commit violence against another, with the intent to cause fear or terror. This also relates to causing the evacuation of a public or private building or serious public inconvenience.
A protected class – is a class of people that cannot be discriminated against by law. Examples of these classes include race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, color, and disability.
If you are ever unsure about any of the legal terminology used, you can ask an attorney representing you to clarify them or a judge if you are in court. Outside of this, there are plenty of sites dedicated to busting terminology and making the legal system more accessible. You can use these sites to understand these terms and take some of the confusion out of the legal system.
And there you have it, a misdemeanor is a minor crime that usually results in a fine or prison sentence of less than a year at a county jail. Misdemeanors are determined by your local legal system, so be sure to check your penal code to find out what is classed as a misdemeanor in your state.
Misdemeanors are categorized depending on their severity too, with the fine and prison sentence varying depending on if you are a repeat offender or not.
Remember to check the legal system in your area and to contact an attorney if you are required to attend court.