Misdemeanor charges are defined as those that involve slight criminal fines and up to twelve months in a jail facility (one year maximum). They are less serious than felony charges, but more serious than a citation. The definition for misdemeanor charges can vary by state and each state has their own classification system.
For example, the most serious type of misdemeanor is classified as a Class A or 1 misdemeanor. Crimes listed under this class may include perjury, assault causing bodily injury, or unlawful possession of a weapon.
Regardless, the common factor found among most definitions of a misdemeanor is that it is usually punishable up to a year in a jail facility.
Misdemeanor charges can remain on a person’s record. After a certain time period, however, a defendant may be able to have them removed from their record or expunged. Generally speaking, it is much easier to remove a misdemeanor charge than it is to expunge a felony charge.
Other types of crimes that are typically categorized as misdemeanors include:
- Petty theft;
- Evading police;
- Cyber bullying;
- Criminal mischief;
- Possession of a controlled substance;
- Interference with child custody; and
- Simple battery or assault.
Again, the crimes and classifications for misdemeanor charges may vary by state. As such, if you are facing misdemeanor charges, you should contact a local criminal defense attorney for assistance.
Certain misdemeanor charges are classified as “non-jailable offenses.” This means that the person will not receive a jail sentence if they are found guilty of the crime. Instead, the person will usually receive an alternative sentencing option, such as a fine, probation, mandatory community service, or a rehabilitation program.
Although non-jailable offenses are still charged as misdemeanors, in reality, they are closer to simple citations or traffic violations.
Some common examples of non-jailable offenses might include:
- Disorderly conduct; or
- Disturbing the peace.
Charges, such as “disturbing the peace,” can include a wide range of behavior and will vary depending on the jurisdiction. In some states, possession of a small amount of certain drugs may even be considered a non-jailable offense.
A wobbler offense is a crime that can be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony. Felonies are punishable by higher fines and more than one year in a prison facility. Some states may designate an offense as a wobbler offense depending on state penal codes. This occurs when the statute specifically states that there are certain elements that will turn the crime into a wobbler.
For example, a state criminal statute may provide that if a defendant does five out of the six requirements for a misdemeanor crime, it will “wobble” and turn into a felony. If the prosecutor charges the offender with a wobbler offense as a felony, a court may decide whether or not it should be a misdemeanor penalty instead. This all depends on the facts of each case.
Some more specific examples of factors that could make it a wobbler charge may include:
- The defendant’s prior criminal record: For instance, a first time offender may face misdemeanor charges, but a third time offender will probably be charged with commission of a felony;
- The severity of the crime: In general, the more serious a crime is in causing damage to property or harm to a person, the more likely it will become a felony; and
- The age of the defendant: Juveniles are less likely to be charged with a felony and more likely to receive a charge for a misdemeanor.
If you are having issues with a crime involving a wobbler offense, you should consult a local criminal defense attorney. They will be able to help you determine whether there is any possible way to reduce or maintain the charge as a misdemeanor as opposed to a felony.
As previously mentioned, alternative sentencing options may be available for certain misdemeanor charges. These are usually applied to less serious crimes, non-jailable offenses, juvenile offenders, and first time offenders.
Alternative sentencing options generally seek to keep the defendant out of jail as much as possible. Some examples of alternative sentencing measures may include:
- Apology letters;
- Monetary fines;
- House arrest;
- Weekend jail; and
- Electronic monitoring.
Thus, alternative sentencing options can often allow a person to continue functioning in their communities even after being charged with an offense.
Given the amount of differences among the states, misdemeanor cases can sometimes involve various legal concepts and theories. If you are facing a misdemeanor charge, you should consider contacting a local criminal defense attorney. They will be able to guide you through the process as well as determine which laws and misdemeanor classifications apply to your case.
Additionally, an experienced criminal defense attorney will be able to prepare any necessary documents for your case and can represent you in court. They can also assess whether there are any misdemeanor defenses available for your case or possibilities for a reduction in charges.