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. 

What are Some Types of Misdemeanor Charges?

Misdemeanors are usually categorized into broad categories. These may include:

  • “Crimes against the Person”: These include charges like assault and battery, false imprisonment, or harassment. More serious injuries or injuries caused by the use of a weapon will usually result in felony charges
  • “Crimes against Property”: These types of charges generally involve some sort of theft, as is the case with shoplifting or larceny charges.
  • “Crimes against Public Safety or Public Order”: Examples of these include disorderly conduct, noise violations, open alcohol container violations, prostitution, and “minor in possession” of alcohol.

Some types of misdemeanor charges may be difficult to define. For instance, some states have a category of charges called “wobbler” offenses, which are charges that can either be filed as a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the circumstances. Other states have a category called “unclassified misdemeanors”, which often cover a broad range of offenses.

What Are the Penalties and Defenses for 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.

Some defenses may apply depending on the type of misdemeanor charges involved. These may include: Self-defense, intoxication, coercion, public arrest, and other types of defenses. You may need to consult with an attorney for more specific applications if you’re facing charges.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with Misdemeanor Charges?

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 your own attorney for help with charges.