Can You Go to Jail for a Misdemeanor?

Can You Go to Jail for a Misdemeanor?

Misdemeanors may vary from state to state but generally have a similar sentence length, for example, a maximum of one year in jail or less. Some states may impose longer jail sentences, depending on the laws governing punishment for Misdemeanors based on their classification. But first, what is actually a misdemeanor?

What is Misdemeanor?

A misdemeanor is a criminal act that has a lighter law than a felony but is heavier than an administrative infraction. Generally, the punishment for Misdemeanor is a fine in the form of money or community service.

Criminal acts that include Misdemeanor are shoplifting, disorderly behavior in public spaces, breaking into facilities or places belonging to other people without permission, drunkenness in public places, or drunk while driving. The act is considered a minor crime but could result in jail.

So, when you commit a minor offense which is included in a Misdemeanor, you can serve the law by paying a fine and even going to jail. Typically, inmates serve only about a year in jail, although the specific sentence given depends on the severity of the misdemeanor offense and its effects.

There is a significant difference between jail and prison. Jail is a place to punish criminals who have committed minor offenses or defendants who are awaiting trial. Jails are run by counties and are usually relatively small because inmates usually only serve short sentences.

Meanwhile, prison is a place to punish criminals who have criminal records for serious crimes, for example, murder, sexual crimes, and robbery. The prison is run by the state and the place is relatively large because prisoners in this place have longer sentences.

What is the Difference Between Misdemeanors and Felonies?

Misdemeanors and Felonies of course have differences, including:

1. Type of Violation

Misdemeanors include low-level crimes such as theft, stalking someone, driving while intoxicated, and entering another person’s premises without permission.

Felonies include high-profile crimes, such as murder, kidnapping, sexual assault, and robbery.

2. Type of Punishment

A misdemeanor is given a penalty in the form of a monetary fine, community service, or a maximum sentence of one year in jail.

Felonies are given jail sentences of more than one year or other forms of more severe punishment, depending on the type of crime and applicable laws in the state.

Can a Misdemeanor Be a Felony?

In the United States, Misdemeanor can become a felony if you commit a misdemeanor repeatedly. However, there are also misdemeanors considered to be felonies. For example, if you utter profanity towards a minor, Misdemeanor is considered a Felony.

In essence, the penalty for Misdemeanor can be a sentence equivalent to a felony if the offense is elevated to a serious offense based on the context and circumstances.

Misdemeanor Classification

In the United States, the Misdemeanor class classification depends on the jurisdiction or legal laws that apply in each state.

For example, in New York, Misdemeanor is divided into:

    • Class A; maximum penalty of one year in jail.
    • Class B; a sentence of not more than three months in jail.

Later in California, Misdemeanor was divided into three classes:

    • Standard Misdemeanor; that is, the lightest offense with lighter penalties, lower fines, and shorter jail sentences. Offenses included are shoplifting or disorderly conduct in a public place.
    • Gross Misdemeanor; a higher violation than the Misdemeanor Standard. The penalties faced are more severe, fines are higher, and jail sentences are longer. Examples are being under the influence of alcohol while driving (DUI) and fraud which has quite a large amount of loss.
    • Wobblers; category of offense where the perpetrator of the offense is accused of Misdemeanor or Felony. The penalties prescribed for wobblers depend on the charges, the type of case, and the discretion of the prosecutor.

However, most commonly states divide the Misdemeanor class into:

    • Class A: penalty of not more than one year in jail.
    • Class B: penalty of not more than six months in jail.
    • Class C: penalty of no more than 30 days in jail.

Example of Misdemeanor

Although the potential penalties for Misdemeanors are different in each state, the types of offenses that constitute Misdemeanors are relatively the same. The example is:

    • Stealing on a small scale
    • Disorderly conduct in public places
    • Light Assault
    • Getting drunk in public places
    • Indecent expressions
    • Driving without a license
    • Get drunk while driving
    • Trespassing
    • Having certain drugs or substances to consume

If you are charged, you need to ask whether your offense is a Misdemeanor or a Felony to ensure the sentence you receive is appropriate to the severity of your offense.

When Are You Accused of Misdemeanor?

You are charged with Misdemeanor when you commit a violation of law that in your state of residence classifies your offense as Misdemeanor.

The prosecutor will determine your sentence, depending on the Misdemeanor classification in that state. For example, if your violation in a certain area is classified as Misdemeanor class A, then the punishment received is based on what has been regulated in Misdemeanor class A. Applicable to class B and class C classifications.

However, the prosecutor can only confirm the punishment if there is evidence of your actions when you committed the offense. If there is no evidence, then you cannot be accused of Misdemeanor.

What is the Punishment for Misdemeanor?

Laws for Misdemeanors do not limit civil rights but can eliminate privileges such as public office licenses, employment, or professional permits. This is said to be the collateral effect of criminal prosecution. For example, someone loses their driver’s license due to reckless driving or drunk driving.

In the United States, misdemeanors are generally sentenced to civil jail with a maximum of 12 months in jail. However, the Massachusetts jurisdiction has an exception, where the maximum penalty for misdemeanors is 2.5 years in jail.

Some other penalties besides jail are monetary fines, community service, short jail sentences, or probation.

Misdemeanor punishment also applies to the president in the United States, where the president will be removed from office and found guilty if proven to have committed Misdemeanor. These provisions are regulated by Congress.

In general, the potential Misdemeanor penalties in the United States are as follows:

    • Fines: If you are found guilty due to the available evidence, then you are required to pay a fairly large fine, depending on the level of the violation.
    • Restitution: The court will require restitution to compensate the victim for the losses caused by the perpetrator during the crime.
    • Probational period: The court may give a sentence in the form of probation rather than going to jail. During the probation period, you must comply with specific conditions set by the court. For example drug testing, counseling, and community services.
    • Jail Time: Jail time are one of the punishments most worried about by Misdemeanor perpetrators.

The punishment will last from a few days to a year, depending on the severity of the offense committed.

Will You Go to Jail for Misdemeanor?

Yes, according to the explanation in the previous paragraph, if you commit a minor offense, then you have the potential to receive a maximum jail sentence of up to 12 months. In some cases, it only takes a few days to a maximum of 5 months. However, a jail sentence could still be imposed for Misdemeanors.

For example, a misdemeanor in the form of theft in a small amount will carry a maximum sentence of six months in jail. Another example is if the perpetrator threatens violence against a partner, the court can decide on a maximum sentence of one year in jail.

The judge in court may exercise discretion over the length of your jail time, but the law sets maximum and minimum jail times.

Can First-Time Offenders Avoid Jail?

If this is your first time committing a crime, especially a misdemeanor, the court may give you an easier sentence. Usually, the judge determines that the offender is better off paying a monetary fine or going on community service rather than serving a jail sentence.

However, if the misdemeanor you committed falls into the category of a fairly serious offense, the court will still give you a jail sentence. Especially for perpetrators who have committed repeated violations before finally being caught.

Compared to going to jail, many cases of misdemeanor who break the rules for the first time receive sentences in the form of probation, fines, community service, and mandatory participation in diversion programs.

A diversion program is a program implemented to help someone overcome the reasons why they committed an offense or criminal act. It’s similar to a rehabilitation program, but another advantage is avoiding a permanent criminal record.

However, you need to understand that not always first-time offenders who commit misdemeanors can escape jail sentences, especially if they commit serious offenses or more serious misdemeanors.

What Happens After Misdemeanor’s Arrest?

The process that occurs after arrest may include the following things.

    1. You are put in jail, and then immediately released with a court date.
    2. You are put in jail, to be free you have to meet a judge. The judge also gives you a court date that you need to attend at the next meeting.
    3. You are put in jail, then you post bail. You are notified of your court date.
    4. You were not arrested, just received notice of your court date.

In one of the processes after the arrest above, the police will submit a report of the incident to the district attorney where the crime occurred. The prosecutor then decides whether to pursue the case or not.

On the trial date, the court informed the defendant that the prosecutor had elected to file a charge of Misdemeanor. However, the regional prosecutor may need more time to make this decision, so that he can determine the date of the next trial.

How Long is the Misdemeanor Penalty?

The length of jail sentences for Misdemeanors varies widely, depending on the laws governing misdemeanors in each state.

However, generally, certain factors influence the length of jail sentences that perpetrators serve, as follows:

    • Whether or not you have a previous criminal record.
    • Type of claim and amount filed.
    • The facts of your case.

The maximum term of jail time for Misdemeanors ranges from six months to twelve months. However, if Misdemeanor has been committed repeatedly, the court can sentence each case to one year. For example, two Misdemeanors mean you will serve a jail time of two years.

Can a Misdemeanor Penalty be Mitigated?

A jail time can be reduced by asking a judge to reduce the jail sentence through a trial so that the jail time is not the maximum length.

You can also reduce jail time through credit by showing good behavior while in jail. Credit for jail time in county jail can be earned every day served.

For example, for every day you behave well in jail, it means you have served two days of your jail time. So, if your sentence is one year in jail, it could be six months in jail.

This applies to those of you who admit your actions when arrested and are willing to serve a sentence commensurate with the level of a light offense.

Can You Lose Your Professional License Due to a Misdemeanor Charge?

Not always, depending on the license you have and what violation was committed. If you are in a specialized profession, such as a doctor, you may lose your license if you commit a minor offense. Because criminal acts, even if light, include violations of the doctor’s code of ethics.

Can Misdemeanor Be Removed From Criminal Records?

Misdemeanor convictions will be recorded in the official criminal history which contains court records, such as trial proceedings and guilty verdicts. If there is a background check, then these records can be seen because they are public. However, if there are no other violations, the records will be sealed, and only the court and police can check them.

This means that the Misdemeanor conviction record is not something that can be erased, but will be locked by itself if there are no further violations for a long period. As time goes by, your record will not be found during background checks for employment or other things.

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