Since a misdemeanor charge is considered less serious than a felony, many people facing such charges don’t take them seriously.
If you do the same, you are making a mistake. Though you won’t find yourself in prison, you can still face fines and jail time if convicted. But most importantly, a charge as simple as a misdemeanor can follow you for decades, possibly affecting many crucial areas of your life. Should you be staring a misdemeanor in the face, here are some critical facts to remember.
- What is the worst punishment for a misdemeanor?
- Can my misdemeanor charge be reduced?
- Is a misdemeanor considered a criminal charge?
- How misdemeanors can turn innocent people into criminals?
What is the Worst Punishment for a Misdemeanor?
Due to misdemeanors being actions that are legally referred to as “crimes of moral turpitude,” these generally involve such things as DUI, trespassing, disorderly conduct, drug possession, theft, and other related crimes. Depending on where the crime took place and the laws present there, you may find yourself being charged with a gross misdemeanor, ordinary misdemeanor, or petty misdemeanor. When you are charged and convicted of a gross misdemeanor, this means your crime falls just short of what would be considered a felony. As for the punishment, this would be a stint in a county jail rather than a prison, and a fine of up to $1,000. In comparison, if you are charged with a petty misdemeanor, you would be facing a punishment of fines not to exceed $500, and a jail sentence of no longer than six months.
Depending on the seriousness of your misdemeanor, the laws pertaining to the area in which the crime was committed, and other related factors, it is possible the judge or district attorney in charge of your case may have the authority to upgrade the charges against you to felony-level. These cases, often called “wobblers,” can lead to much more serious legal consequences for you if this path is taken. Since you will want to do everything possible to avoid this scenario, make sure you have hired a criminal defense attorney who not only understands the legal concept of “wobblers,” but also knows how the local district attorney’s office usually handles such matters. By doing so, you can set the stage for either winning your case altogether, or at the worst making sure you don’t wind up getting convicted of a felony and spending years in prison rather than a few months in your local jail.
Can My Misdemeanor Charge be Reduced?
The simple answer to this question is YES. However, you should always make sure you have a skilled criminal defense attorney working with you from the outset of your case. If not, a DA will likely not be too willing to negotiate and ultimately reduce the charges against you.
Due to there being different levels of misdemeanors, it is very possible your attorney could get the charges against you reduced. For example, if you are initially charged with a gross misdemeanor, your attorney may be able to convince the DA or judge to reduce the charges to an ordinary misdemeanor. In other situations, your lawyer may be able to get a petty misdemeanor charge reduced to a petty offense known as an infraction. If this occurs, you may be punished by a fine, but not by getting jail time or being placed on probation.
When dealing with a misdemeanor charge that you think could be dropped down to an infraction, it is important to remember that you should always have an attorney with you from the very beginning. For individuals who have been charged with an infraction, the legal right still exists to hire an attorney. However, the court is not legally required to appoint an attorney to you.
In most misdemeanor cases where these charges are reduced to infractions, traffic violations are the most common issue. Thus, if you were initially charged with DUI or reckless driving, your criminal defense attorney may be able to get these more serious charges dropped to an infraction. Since the schedules of courts and district attorneys are already packed, a knowledgeable attorney can use this to their advantage. By doing so, you may still be fined for your actions, but will not be facing jail time or a criminal record.
Is a Misdemeanor Considered a Criminal Charge?
If you are thinking a misdemeanor is not a criminal charge, think again. Once the police place handcuffs on you, sit you down in the back of their patrol car, and take you to be booked at the local jail, you’ll quickly realize you are now facing criminal charges.
Even in situations where your alleged crime may not be considered extremely serious, you may be going up against a judge or DA who is determined to make an example of you and thus send a message to others who may commit the same act. For example, if you have been charged with DUI but the circumstances surrounding the charges against you are somewhat unclear, this may not deter a DA or judge from seeking the maximum punishment against you, or perhaps even trying to elevate the charges against you to felonies.
Due to this possibility, it is vital you take the misdemeanor charges against you seriously from the moment police arrest you. If you do, you stand a much better chance of coming away with better results. Since almost all misdemeanors and even felonies involve some negotiating between the defendant’s lawyer and the DA’s office, showing remorse for your actions can go a long way in getting much better results. Also, if you have no prior criminal record, this can also work in your favor. By using these points in negotiations, your criminal defense attorney can make it clear you have already learned your lesson, and thus there is no need for the DA or court to make a bad situation even worse.
Can Misdemeanors Turn Innocent People into Criminals?
While you, your family and friends, and your attorney know you made an error in judgement that you never plan to do again, the rest of the world may not see things the same way. As a result, allowing yourself to be convicted of a misdemeanor charge can potentially make you look like a criminal to many people.
For example, if you are convicted of a misdemeanor theft or burglary charge, the chances of you obtaining employment or finding a place to live drop significantly. Also, should you find yourself with a DUI conviction or one of reckless driving, you can probably forget about having any job that involves you getting behind the wheel.
Along with these repercussions, you may also find yourself having a much harder time getting into college or obtaining a scholarship to pay for your education. Since most colleges today are much more concerned about security and crime on campus, a criminal record may leave you on the outside looking in at yet another lost opportunity.
If you do have a misdemeanor conviction against you, there is always the option of seeking to get your criminal record expunged. However, this can take time and be a very complex process. Along with having to complete your sentence and subsequent probation or community service, you will also need to have no further charges pending against you. In some cases, you and your attorney may be able to petition the court for a “certified finding of factual evidence,” which can be shown to employers during a job interview.
When you are facing misdemeanor charges here in Marietta or elsewhere, don’t just assume the charges against you will be dropped and your life will immediately return to normal. If you do, you may be surprised at just how much your legal troubles can escalate. Whether it is a DA deciding to instead pursue felony charges against you or a judge who is determined to make an example of you, never let things progress to this point. Instead, schedule a consultation immediately with us here at the Castellanos Law Group. By doing so, you can discuss your situation in greater detail, be given various options regarding your case, and have attorneys on your side who will protect your legal rights from start to finish.