Misdemeanors are a category of crimes that are generally less serious crimes (as opposed to felonies). Within the definition of misdemeanor, there are also levels of seriousness. Each jurisdiction may have its own classification system. This means that each state in the U.S., as well as the federal government, has its own method of classifying misdemeanors.
Many states, as well as the federal government, use a letter classification system. These systems may still vary. In some states, the classes include only A, B, C and D. Other states may include more letters, and, therefore, more classes.
Generally, in most states, as well as at the federal level, a class A misdemeanor is the most serious, and carries the greatest consequences. The last letter in the sequence indicates the least serious category of misdemeanor. Some jurisdictions use other methods of classification, for example, some use a number classification system.
A misdemeanor is typically punishable by a jail sentence of no more than one year, and a fine of a certain amount. This would generally be for a Class A misdemeanor, since that is generally the most serious level of misdemeanor. Lower-level misdemeanors may carry sentences of only months or days. If an offense requires more than a year of jail time, it will typically be considered a felony.
Conviction of a felony can result in a sentence in a federal prison. Misdemeanors sentences, however, are most often carried out in a local or county jail. Class A misdemeanors, being the most serious type of misdemeanor, can involve a sentences that is similar to a less serious category of felony.
As discussed above, misdemeanor classifications can vary a lot by jurisdiction. Not only do they vary in their classification systems in whether they use letters, numbers, and how many, but different jurisdictions may place different crimes at different levels of seriousness.
For instance, one state may categorize simple assault (assault without aggravating circumstances, such as using a weapon) as a Class A misdemeanor, while other states may choose to categorize it differently based on what makes sense for their own system of law. However, a lot of commonalities may still be seen across jurisdictions regarding how crimes are classified.
Here are some examples of crimes that are commonly considered to be Class A misdemeanors (or the equivalent):
- Simple assault;
- DUI/DWI (depending on number of offenses);
- Resisting arrest;
- Possession of a controlled substance;
- Property theft of certain dollar amounts;
- Making a false report;
- Unlawful possession of a weapon;
- Vandalism; and
- Violating a restraining order.
It is important to remember that aggravating factor can elevate a crime from a misdemeanor to a felony, and therefore result in much more serious penalties.
Since Class A misdemeanors are the more serious category of misdemeanor, they accordingly carry the highest penalties. This means that the greatest punishment one can receive for a misdemeanor will typically involve a Class A misdemeanor. As discussed previously, there are commonalities in crimes that fit this category and in their sentences across jurisdictions.
The common penalties for Class A misdemeanor or the equivalent are:
- Fines. These may be as little as $500 or as much as several thousand dollars;
- Jail sentences of one year or less;
- Community service; and
- Rehabilitation programs.
Class A misdemeanors are not automatically removed from your record after a certain period of time. In some cases, they can be removed from your record, either if a court seals your record, or if you have the offense expunged from your record. You will likely need to apply for the expungement.
In order to be a candidate for expungement, you must meet all terms of the sentence given to you, including completion of any probation. Whether you are granted expungement will also depend upon the nature of your crime.
Since this is the most serious type of misdemeanor, with the most serious consequences, you should consult with an attorney, who can:
- Explain the charges and possible consequences;
- Appear at any pretrial meetings and see if a plea deal is possible;
- Represent you at trial; or
- Generally make sure you are treated fairly, and do what is possible in terms of reducing your penalty.
A Class A Misdemeanor is a serious crime, with a possible jail time of a full year. If you have been charged with this crime, you should contact an experienced criminal lawyer immediately. Your attorney will be able to represent you in any court proceedings, and advise you throughout the process.