Instant Court Case Lookup
The following is for information purposes only
Criminal offenses in the United States fall into three general categories depending on the severity. These are felonies, misdemeanors, and infractions. A misdemeanor differs significantly from a felony in being less severe.
What Is a Misdemeanor?
A misdemeanor is a moderate crime that carries less serious penalties. Misdemeanor crimes usually don't involve serious violence or high levels of property loss.
Despite being lesser crimes, misdemeanors still have serious ramifications such as a criminal record.
A wide variety of crimes are known as misdemeanors. They can range from assault to property crimes. State laws can vary widely with regards to what crimes are misdemeanors.
Some states like California, Connecticut, and Virginia have a category of crimes called "wobblers". Depending on the circumstances, these crimes can be considered either misdemeanors or felonies. However, most states don't have wobbler classifications.
What Are the Classes of Misdemeanors?
State laws split misdemeanors into several classes, depending on the gravity of the crime.
- Class A - The most serious of all misdemeanor charges. A conviction carries a punishment of up to one year in county jail, but more than six months.
- Class B - Charges at this level are punishable by up to six months, but more than thirty days imprisonment in a county jail.
- Class C - Class C misdemeanor charges are the least serious. The maximum jail term is thirty days, but more than five days.
What Is the Punishment for a Misdemeanor Charge?
If convicted for a misdemeanor, there are three possible punishments. They include:
- Incarceration - A misdemeanor charge carries a maximum jail term of up to one year in a county jail. If the sentence is more than one year, it becomes a felony.
- Fines - The fines for a misdemeanor charge will vary from one state to another and depend on the severity of the crime committed.
- Probation - A misdemeanor probation is a sentence usually imposed on juvenile offenders and first-time adult offenders. Conditions may include community service, meeting the probation officer, refraining from illegal drugs or excessive alcohol, avoiding certain places or people, and appearing in court when requested.
- Community service - This is an order by the court for the offender to perform free community work that benefits the community.
- Restitution - Thisinvolves the court ordering a defendant to compensate the victim for losses suffered from the crime.
What are the Different Types of Misdemeanors
Common misdemeanors in the United States include:
- Reckless driving
- Driving Under Influence (DUI/DWI/OUI)
- Assault and battery
- Domestic assault
- Possession of controlled substances
- Public intoxication
- Resisting arrest
- Property theft
- Unlawful possession of a weapon
- Contravening to a restraining order
Depending on the seriousness and circumstances surrounding the offenses, it is possible that misdemeanor charges could be upgraded to felonies.
How Do Misdemeanors Work?
This section explains what happens during a misdemeanor case.
- Initial appearance/arraignment - The defendant arrives 15 minutes before the time indicated on their summons and check-in at the court clerk's office.
- Issuance of the rights form - They're given a document that contains essential information about their legal rights. When the judge calls the case, they will ask if the defendant has read the form and understood their rights.
- Reading charges and possible penalties - The judge reads out the charges and the potential penalties and asks if these are understood.
- Given a right to legal counsel - The judge asks if the defendant has a lawyer. The judge can get a court-appointed lawyer where the defendant cannot afford one after ascertaining the defendant's financial situation. A court-appointed lawyer is only available if the defendant is facing jail time.
- Entering a Plea - The judge reads out the charges and asks how the defendant is pleading. The accused could plea as Guilty, Not Guilty, or No Contest. The judge decides the sentence in the case of a guilty plea. The defendant can choose a court trial or jury trial if they plead as not guilty. The judge decides the penalty if found guilty at the conclusion of a trial.
- Sentencing - If the jury finds the defendant guilty on any count, the judge decides the penalty and may schedule the sentence for a later day. The sentence must be within the maximum limits set by statute.
Where To Find Misdemeanor Records?
Finding misdemeanor records in the United States is not complicated. Those searching can find them in the following ways:
- Online - Most documents in courts today are stored electronically. The public can access these records through the Public Access to Court Records service (PACER).
- From the courthouse - If you cannot find the records online, people can contact the county court clerk's office where the case was filed or heard. They will advise on how to obtain a copy of the document.
Criminal charges for a misdemeanor can appear on background checks because they remain indefinitely on a person's criminal record. This is why it is crucial to employ the services of a competent attorney to ensure the case was properly defended in a court of law.