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Misdemeanor Definition

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What Is the Definition of a Misdemeanor?

In most jurisdictions, misdemeanor charges are defined as any charge resulting in a sentence of less than one year. Misdemeanor definitions can vary by region, and many states include different classes of misdemeanors, such as Class A, B, etc. Thus, misdemeanors are often defined according to the seriousness of the crime. This may be determined according to the severity of the damage or injury caused by the crime. Class A misdemeanors are usually the most serious types of crimes.

Misdemeanors can also result in criminal fines. Some examples of misdemeanors include DUI crimes, interfering with child custody, simple theft, reckless conduct causing harm to or endangering the bodily safety of another, obstructing a public officer, criminal harassment, simple battery, cyber bullying, and receiving stolen property.

How Do Misdemeanors Compare to Felonies?

Unlike misdemeanors, felonies will often result in a sentence of greater than one year. Felonies may be similar to misdemeanors, in that a theft or an assault/battery may be involved. However, the difference is that felonies often involve greater property loss and damage, or "severe bodily injuries." Crimes involving the death of another person are usually felonies, not misdemeanors.

Also, certain "aggravating factors" can turn a misdemeanor crime into a felony charge. These include: the use of a deadly weapon; repeat offenses; defrauding or impersonating a government official; and committing an assault or battery on a police officer, woman, or child.

Is Theft a Misdemeanor?

A good example of the difference between felonies and misdemeanors is the crime of theft. In most cases, a simple theft crime such as shoplifting will result in misdemeanor charges. In some cases, only a small criminal fine will result, especially for very minor thefts. However, theft of a large amount of money may result in grand theft charges, which are often prosecuted as felonies. Grand theft or grand larceny is often defined as crimes involving property valued at over $500 (in some states, this amount may be higher or lower).

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with Misdemeanor Charges?

Misdemeanor definitions can often be confusing. In fact, the application of misdemeanor laws can sometimes change from case to case. It’s in your best interests to hire a qualified criminal lawyer near you if you need help with misdemeanor charges. Your attorney can explain how the misdemeanor statutes in your area may be affecting your case.

Photo of page author Jose Rivera

, LegalMatch Legal Writer

Last Modified: 06-06-2018 11:14 PM PDT

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