Misdemeanors are crimes that are generally considered less serious (compared to crimes that are classified as felonies). They are typically punishable by less than one year in jail (not prison) and/or a fine of a certain amount, depending on the jurisdiction.
Each state further categorizes misdemeanors into classes. Many states, as well as the federal government, use a letter system to classify misdemeanors. Most states have Class A, B,C, and D, but some states break down their misdemeanors into more classes and use more letters. The crimes are classified by seriousness, with Class A being the most serious and Class D (or whichever letter is last in that particular state) considered the least serious misdemeanor.
A Class A Misdemeanor, also known as a “Misdemeanor Class A,” is considered the most serious type of misdemeanor in most jurisdictions. Therefore the punishment for a Class A Misdemeanor is typically close to the maximum of one year in jail. Crimes that require a longer sentence will be classified as felonies.
What are Some Common Examples of Class A Misdemeanors?
The crimes that are classified as Class A Misdemeanors will vary depending on the jurisdiction. However, there are some crimes that are pretty consistently classified as the most serious misdemeanors regardless of jurisdiction. Those crimes include:
- DUI (depending on how many offenses)
- Trespassing (depending on degree)
- Domestic violence (depending on degree)
- Theft under a certain amount or petty larceny
- Assault (depending on degree)
- Computer hacking
- Resisting arrest
- Possession of a controlled substance
- Indecent exposure
Some Class A Misdemeanor crimes might be classified as felonies if there are aggravating factors involved. A felony charge will include the possibility of a more severe penalty.
What are the Penalties for Class A Misdemeanors?
Defendants found guilty of Class A Misdemeanors are typically sentenced to between six months and one year in a local jail. Fines imposed for Class A misdemeanors will vary depending on the jurisdiction. In some states the most serious misdemeanors are punishable by a fine of up to $2,500. Other states might impose a larger fine.
Class A Misdemeanors are the most serious misdemeanors, and the penalties reflect that. Just because a crime is not considered a felony does not mean there are not serious consequences.
Some crimes that are classified as Class A Misdemeanors will include penalties beyond jail time and a fine. For example, a defendant convicted of a DUI will usually have their driver’s license automatically suspended. Being found guilty of indecent exposure might lead to a defendant being included in a sex offender registry. A domestic violence conviction could mean losing the right to own a firearm.
First-time offenders are less likely to receive the maximum penalty for a Class A Misdemeanor. Many factors can impact the penalty imposed by the court, including the criminal history of the defendant, the circumstances surrounding the crime, and the presence of any aggravating or mitigating factors.
Some states have specific first-time offender programs that serve to divert defendants convicted of their first offense from jail. Someone convicted of a drug or alcohol offense might be ordered to complete a rehabilitation program. Other options include community service or probation.
How Long Does a Class A Misdemeanors Stay on Your Criminal Record?
Class A Misdemeanors are not automatically expunged from your record after a certain amount of time has passed. The conviction will remain on your record unless you petition the court to have it removed. Another option is to ask the court to seal the record so that it does not appear in background checks.
Expungement is not guaranteed. In order to have the best chance of getting your record expunged you need to have completed all requirements imposed by the court. Typically, you must be finished serving any time on probation before applying. You cannot have any pending charges or arrests. Most states will not entertain an expungement request until after a certain amount of time has passed since either the conviction or completion of the sentence.
Some states may offer an opportunity for a simpler path to expungement for a Class A Misdemeanor first offense. For example, in Texas some first-time, non-violent offenders are eligible for a pre-trial diversion program. Upon successful completion of the program participants are able to immediately apply for the conviction to be expunged.
How Can a Lawyer Help Me with a Class A Misdemeanors Charge?
A criminal lawyer can help you understand the charges against you and advise you regarding any plea bargains that the prosecution might offer. Prior to a trial a lawyer can also negotiate on your behalf and attempt to convince the prosecution to either reduce or drop the charges, which will impact the possible penalties the court can impose. If your case goes to trial, a criminal lawyer will represent you in court and argue on your behalf for a fair sentence in the event you are found guilty of a Class A Misdemeanor.
While misdemeanors are considered less serious than felonies, they still carry significant penalties and can stay on your criminal record for the rest of your life. It is important that you have an experienced criminal lawyer representing you if you are charged with a Class A Misdemeanor.
Should I Hire a Lawyer for Class A Misdemeanor Charges?
If you have been charged with a Class A Misdemeanor you should hire a criminal lawyer. An experienced attorney will advise and assist you throughout the process and make sure your interests are represented.