A misdemeanor is a type of criminal offense considered less severe than a felony but more serious than an infraction. Misdemeanors are typically punishable by fine and incarceration in a local jail, unlike infractions which include zero jail time. Most jurisdictions will separate misdemeanors into three categories: high or gross, ordinary, and petty. Petty misdemeanors generally include a jail sentence of fewer than six months and a fine of no more than $500.
Flexible Treatment of Misdemeanors
Legislatures often use broad charging and sentencing methods for criminal conduct that requires punishment. They will usually combine a fine assessed for a misdemeanor with an incarceration period given for a felony. Some states, such as California, have new felony sentencing realignment laws in place, imposing months in a county jail instead of multi-year prison sentencing for nonviolent felonies.
In other states, sentencing is up to the discretion of the district attorney or local judge, who may choose to pursue harsher punishment for a single criminal matter. Once the sentencing is determined, appropriate rights and consequences are attached to the charge.
Common Types of Misdemeanor Offenses
Committing a misdemeanor does not always incur jail time, though it will have a negative impact on job hunting, locating an apartment, receiving a loan, or obtaining an advantage from other privileges or services. Because of this, it’s recommended that anyone charged with a misdemeanor hire an attorney, regardless of severity.
Some common types of misdemeanor offenses which may require legal help include:
- Basic Assault
- Indecent Exposure
- Public Intoxication
- Petty Theft
Each bears its own consequences, and each offense may be interpreted differently by a district attorney and court, especially indecent exposure.