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What Are Misdemeanors?


In criminal law, there are three main types of offenses, each with a different level of severity. In ascending order of severity, there are infractions, misdemeanors, and felonies.

Misdemeanors, being the moderate level of the three, usually result in either fines of no more than $500 and a local jail sentence of fewer than six months. A person can be charged with a gross misdemeanor also, which is often described as being more serious than a misdemeanor but less serious than a felony.

The fact that misdemeanors sit in between felonies and infractions means that they are often treated quite flexibly under the law. Some courts can increase jail time based on how serious the judge perceives the misdemeanor to be.

Misdemeanors can be attributed to a whole host of crimes, including petty theft, vandalism, assault, driving recklessly and possessing drugs like pot. What usually distinguishes a misdemeanor from a felony is that it did not involve possessing a Class I drug or wasn't overtly violent in nature.

However, misdemeanors must be taken extremely seriously. They are much more serious than simple infractions that do not result in jail time. Misdemeanors can result in severe difficulties in getting jobs in the future because you now will have a criminal record. If your misdemeanor charge was dismissed in court, it is advisable to request a statement that certifies your innocence for the future.

If you have some specific questions about how best to defend yourself on misdemeanor charges, you should speak to a trusted legal advisor who can help you build a strong defense.

Source: FindLaw, "Misdemeanors," accessed Oct. 06, 2017