Yes, a misdemeanor is a criminal offense. It is a category of criminal offense considered less serious than a felony but more serious than an infraction. Misdemeanors generally involve offenses punishable by fines, probation, community service, or a jail sentence of up to one year. 

What Are The Classes Of Misdemeanors?

Following is a common framework for misdemeanor classes:

  • Class A Misdemeanor: This is typically the most serious category of misdemeanors. Offenses in this class may include crimes such as assault, domestic violence, theft of higher value, or driving under the influence (DUI) with prior convictions. Class A misdemeanors carry higher potential penalties compared to lower classes.
  • Class B Misdemeanor: This class covers offenses of moderate severity. Examples may include drug possession offenses, shoplifting, disorderly conduct, or driving without a license. Penalties for Class B misdemeanors are typically less severe than Class A but more severe than lower classes.
  • Class C Misdemeanor: This class includes offenses of lesser severity. It may involve minor theft, public intoxication, trespassing, or certain traffic violations. Class C misdemeanors generally carry lesser penalties compared to higher classes.

What Is An Aggravated Misdemeanor?

An “aggravated misdemeanor” is a term that is not commonly used in the classification of criminal offenses. In some jurisdictions, the term “aggravated misdemeanor” may be informally used to refer to a misdemeanor offense that is considered more serious or carries enhanced penalties due to specific aggravating factors. 

These factors could include the severity of the harm caused, the defendant’s criminal history, or the use of a weapon during the commission of the offense.

How serious is a misdemeanor offense compared to a felony offense?

A misdemeanor offense is generally considered less serious than a felony offense. Some key differences between misdemeanor and felony offenses are as follows:

  • Severity of the Crime: Misdemeanors are typically less severe crimes, such as minor theft, simple assault, or disorderly conduct. Felonies, on the other hand, involve more serious offenses such as murder, rape, robbery, or drug trafficking.
  • Penalties: Misdemeanor convictions often result in less severe penalties compared to felony convictions. Misdemeanor penalties can include fines, probation, community service, or a jail sentence of up to one year. Felony penalties, on the other hand, can result in significant prison sentences, substantial fines, and other long-term consequences.
  • Criminal Record Impact: Both misdemeanor and felony convictions result in a criminal record, but felony convictions tend to have more severe and long-lasting consequences. Felony convictions can impact employment opportunities, housing prospects, and certain civil rights, such as voting or owning firearms.
  • Legal Process: Felony offenses typically involve more complex legal proceedings. Grand juries or preliminary hearings are often required to determine if sufficient evidence exists for the case to proceed to trial. Misdemeanor cases, on the other hand, may go directly to trial or be resolved through plea negotiations.
  • Law Enforcement Attention: Law enforcement agencies generally prioritize felony offenses due to their more serious nature. Felonies often receive more resources and investigative attention compared to misdemeanor offenses.

What Are Some Common Misdemeanors?

There are numerous common misdemeanors that individuals may encounter. Some examples include:

  • Petty Theft: The act of unlawfully taking the property of low value, usually classified as a misdemeanor when the stolen property is below a specified threshold.
  • Disorderly Conduct: Behaviors that disturb the peace, such as public intoxication, fighting in public, or creating a disturbance in a public place.
  • Simple Assault: Causing minor physical harm or intentionally threatening bodily harm to another person without using a weapon.
  • Trespassing: Entering or remaining on someone else’s property without permission.
  • Shoplifting: The act of stealing merchandise from a retail store.
  • Driving Under the Influence (DUI): Operating a vehicle while impaired by alcohol or drugs, with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) above the legal limit.
  • Reckless Driving: Operating a vehicle in a manner that shows a willful disregard for the safety of others.
  • Public Intoxication: Being visibly intoxicated or under the influence of drugs or alcohol in a public place.
  • Harassment: Engaging in unwanted behaviors that cause distress, annoyance, or alarm to another person.
  • Criminal Mischief: Damaging or vandalizing property belonging to others.

Penalties for a misdemeanor conviction

The penalties for a misdemeanor conviction can vary depending on the jurisdiction and the specific offense committed. Generally, misdemeanor penalties can include:

  • Fines: Misdemeanor convictions often result in monetary fines. The fine amount can vary based on the severity of the offense, the jurisdiction, and other factors. The fines can range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars.
  • Probation: Misdemeanor offenders may be placed on probation, which involves regularly reporting to a probation officer, adhering to specific conditions (such as drug testing or attending counseling), and avoiding further criminal activity. The length of probation can vary but is typically between six months and two years.
  • Community Service: Courts may order individuals convicted of a misdemeanor to perform several community service hours. The required hours can range from tens to hundreds, depending on the offense and jurisdiction.
  • Jail Time: Misdemeanor charges can result in a jail sentence, typically up to one year. However, the jail time may sometimes be served in a local or county jail instead of a state prison.

How long does a misdemeanor stay on your criminal record?

The length of time a misdemeanor stays on your criminal record can vary depending on several factors, including the jurisdiction and the specific offense committed. In general, misdemeanors can remain on your criminal record indefinitely unless certain actions are taken to have them expunged or sealed.

Expungement is a legal process in which a person’s criminal record is effectively erased or sealed from public view. The eligibility for expungement and the specific requirements vary by jurisdiction. In some cases, misdemeanors may be eligible for expungement after a certain period, typically several years from the date of conviction or completion of the sentence, provided that no other criminal convictions have occurred in the interim.

Can a misdemeanor conviction affect future employment opportunities?

Yes, a misdemeanor conviction can potentially affect future employment opportunities. While the impact may vary depending on the specific circumstances, type of job, and the employer’s policies, here are some ways a misdemeanor conviction could impact employment:

  • Background Checks: Many employers conduct background checks as part of their hiring process. A misdemeanor conviction may appear on a criminal background check, influencing the employer’s perception of your suitability for the job.
  • Job Applications: Some job applications require disclosure of prior criminal convictions. If you have a misdemeanor conviction and are asked to disclose it.
  • Employer Policies: Certain industries or employers may have specific policies or regulations that restrict hiring individuals with certain criminal convictions, including misdemeanors.
  • Professional Licenses: Some professions require licenses or certifications, and a misdemeanor conviction could potentially impact your ability to obtain or maintain such licenses.
  • Employer Discretion: Ultimately, the decision to hire or not hire an individual with a misdemeanor conviction is at the employer’s discretion.

Convicted of a serious misdemeanor? Contact a lawyer

If you have been convicted of a serious misdemeanor, protecting your rights and exploring your legal options is crucial. Contact an experienced criminal lawyer today to discuss your case and seek professional guidance. They can review the details of your conviction, assess the strength of your defense, and work towards minimizing the potential consequences.