Crimes are classified as misdemeanors or felonies. Misdemeanor charges are generally reserved for less serious crimes and are based on a scale ranging from least to most severe. Accordingly, there are many different crimes and levels of severity that can still be classified as misdemeanors. However, misdemeanor charges have the potential to be lowered depending on the specific crime and the circumstances surrounding it.
What Is a Misdemeanor?
Any crime that cannot be punishable by a state prison sentence is considered a misdemeanor offense. Misdemeanor convictions cannot exceed one full year of jail time.
Although misdemeanors are less severe than felonies, they can still impact people’s lives permanently and severely. People with misdemeanors on their records may:
- be disqualified from jobs they apply to;
- be denied governmental assistance; and/or
- be restricted from receiving certain licenses.
Students may not be able to get loans or grants if they receive a misdemeanor that is drug related.
A person’s civil rights, however, cannot be reduced or revoked when they are convicted of a misdemeanor the way they can be when someone is convicted of a felony.
Are All Misdemeanors the Same?
While many people think that crimes are either misdemeanors or felonies, it is in fact more complicated than that. Misdemeanor is an umbrella term for many different crimes, and they are broken down into different classes.
Class A Misdemeanors
Class A misdemeanors are the most serious misdemeanors, and any crime more serious than these will be escalated to a felony offense. Anyone convicted of a Class A misdemeanor can expect a jail sentence of up to 9 months and/or a fine of up to $10,000. Class A misdemeanors stay on a person’s record until they are expunged. Here are some examples of Class A misdemeanors:
- Theft with a total value of less than $2,500
- Obstructing a police officer or resisting a police officer
- Vandalism (destructing a business or individual’s property) with damages worth less than $2,500
- Hazing practices in colleges
- Certain instances of animal abuse/mistreatment
- Soliciting a prostitute or working as a prostitute
- A hit and run accident that resulted in minor injuries
- Threatening death or bodily harm against someone
- Damaging or ruining a U.S. Flag with the intent of violence
- Misdemeanor battery
- Running a casino out of your home or other location
- Owning certain gambling devices, such as slot machines
- Misdemeanor bail jumping
- Trespassing in a locked place of business, home, or other building
Class B Misdemeanors
Class B misdemeanors are less serious but can still result in severe consequences and long-term social and legal effects. The punishments, however, are less severe than Class A misdemeanors.
Anyone convicted of a Class B misdemeanor can expect to receive a jail sentence of up to 90 days, a fine of $1,000, or a combination of both. Like Class A misdemeanors, Class B misdemeanors will remain on a person’s record for the duration of their life, and will be visible to potential employers, landlords, and others. Some examples of Class B misdemeanors are:
- A second offense of alcohol possession as a minor
- Interfering with the responsibilities of a service dog in a reckless manner
- Giving alcohol to a minor if it’s the second offense within a 30-month period
- Gambling or owning devices intended to be used in gambling
- Trespassing in a medical setting, such as a hospital
- Fraud involving food stamps or other types of governmental assistance
- Using a telephone or computer communication system in an unlawful manner
Class C Misdemeanors
Class C misdemeanors are less serious than Class B and much less serious than Class A misdemeanors. However, the consequences can still be relatively severe, and they also stay on your record.
Anyone convicted of a Class C misdemeanor may receive up to 30 days in jail as well as a fine of up to $500, or both. Although Class C misdemeanors are relatively low-level crimes, they are worth fighting in court due to the lasting imprint they leave on criminal records. Some crimes that are considered Class C misdemeanors include:
- A second offense of possessing alcohol as a minor
- Giving alcohol to a minor
- Being houseless (known legally as vagrancy)
- Vandalizing a public place by writing or drawing indecent, obscene, or lewd content
- Consuming alcohol on public transportation
- Encouraging a child to remain truant or helping them do so
- Possessing a controlled substance that is not a narcotic, such as marijuana
Class U (Unclassified) Misdemeanors
Some people consider Class U misdemeanors to be misleading because they are not technically unclassified. Class U misdemeanors have their own penalties or penalties that are applicable to any misdemeanor crime. Any Class U misdemeanor that does not have specific, unique punishments will instead be penalized with a jail sentence that does not exceed 30 days and/or a $500 fine. Some examples of Class U misdemeanors include:
- A hit and run accident that did not result in injuries (punishable by a fine between $300 and $600 and a jail sentence of up to 6 months)
- A second DUI offense (punishable by a fine between $300 and $600 and a jail sentence of up to 6 months)
- A third DUI offense (punishable by a fine between $600 and $2,000, a jail sentence of up to 1 year, and additional fines depending on the blood alcohol content at the time of arrest)
- A DUI charge while a minor is present in the vehicle
- Receiving an underage DUI
- Operating a boat while intoxicated (punishable by a fine between $300 and $600 and a jail sentence of up to 6 months)
- Various violations related to hunting (licensing, firearms, etc.)
- Marijuana possession (punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and/or a jail sentence of up to 6 months)
- Amphetamine, cocaine, or LSD possession (punishable by a fine of up to $5,000 and/or a jail sentence of 1 month)
Can Misdemeanor Charges Be Lowered?
It is possible for misdemeanor charges to be reduced to a charge that has less severe consequences. Hiring talented and experienced legal representation will ensure you have a legal team that knows every aspect of the system, including potential loopholes and ways the prosecution may have acted inappropriately or illegally.
The most compelling method of defense against a misdemeanor charge is the strength of the evidence involved. Gathering as much evidence as possible to prove the defendant’s innocence is crucial in potentially getting charges reduced. Here are some examples of common defenses used in misdemeanor cases:
- Involuntary intoxication: If someone is charged with a misdemeanor crime related to intoxication, or an offense committed while intoxicated, they may be able to claim that they became intoxicated against their will. Involuntary intoxication is a quality defense against crimes that require proof of intent. For example, for the prosecution to convict someone of assault, they must prove that the person intended to commit that crime. If they were intoxicated against their will at the time the crime occurred, they may be able to have the charges reduced.
- Self-defense: Self-defense can be used as a defense for certain misdemeanor crimes. However, it is important to remember that this can only be successfully used as a defense if the level of force used by the defendant was relatively proportionate to the level of the threat coming from the person they were defending themselves against.
- Mistake of fact: Mistake of fact is a commonly used defense in misdemeanor crimes, specifically those involving theft. When mistake of fact is used as a defense, it means the defendant was unaware of a fact about the crime, or person they committed the crime against, that is needed to prove they committed the crime. For example, to successfully prosecute someone for theft, the prosecution must prove that the defendant stole the victim’s property with the intent of depriving them of that property. If the defendant had a reasonable understanding that the property belonged to them, they cannot be convicted of the crime because they did not take the property with the intention of depriving the victim of it.
- Duress: When someone commits a crime because they were facing immediate injury, and committing the crime was the only way to avoid the injury, they can use duress as a defense against the charges brought against them.
Contact an Attorney Today
If you have been charged with a misdemeanor crime and need legal advice or believe it can be reduced, contact the Law Offices of Christopher J. Cherella today. Cherella Law can provide you with the trial-tested, experienced defense your case requires. Attorney Cherella has successfully defended hundreds of clients, and he can help you fight your charge and preserve your dignity with his 20+ years of experience. Reach out for a free consultation today at (414) 882-8382 or via our contact page.