Misdemeanors are classified by the severity of the crime. Each state uses different names for each “level” of a misdemeanor charge. Most misdemeanors are punishable by both a fine and jail time. However, the maximum punishment for jail time is normally one year in a local jail; this is the biggest difference between a felony and a misdemeanor. Although it’s a less serious charge than a felony, misdemeanors can become either infractions or felonies due to the nature of their crime. We’ll go over the various levels of misdemeanor charges, and what kind of punishment usually comes with it.
Most misdemeanor crimes are “victimless.” Traffic tickets, disorderly conduct, and petty theft would be some examples of misdemeanors that don’t necessarily have a harmed victim involved. However, the charges can change depending on the nature of the crime.
For example, you’re caught driving under the influence, so you’re charged with a DUI misdemeanor. However, if someone was hurt or you were driving with children in the car, you’d likely receive a felony charge for endangering other people.
Misdemeanors are grouped and classified into different categories to better define the nature of the crime and the punishment. In other words, it helps prosecutors determine how much jail time and what fines you’d receive.
Each state uses different terms to define the severity of a misdemeanor. Here, you can see each state either uses different levels of misdemeanors (Class 1, 2, or 3; and A, B, and C,) or by the severity of the crime.
|State||Levels of Misdemeanors (Highest to Lowest)||Most Serious Charge|
|Alabama||Class A, B, or C||Up to one year in jail and a $6,000 fine|
|Alaska||Class A, B, or C||Up to one year in jail and a $10,000 fine|
|Arkansas||Class 1, 2, or 3||Up to one year in jail and a $2,500 fine|
|Arizona||Class 1, 2, or 3||Up to six months in jail and a $2,500 fine|
|Colorado||Class 1, 2, or 3||Up to 18 months in jail and a $5,000 fine|
|Connecticut||Class A, B, or C||Up to one year in jail and a $2,000 fine|
|Delaware||Class A or B||Up to one year in jail and a $2,300 fine|
|Florida||First or second degree||Up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine|
|Georgia||Misdemeanors of a high and aggravated nature or misdemeanor||Up to one year in jail and a $5,000 fine|
|Hawaii||Misdemeanor or petty misdemeanor||Up to one year in jail|
|Illinois||Class A, B, or C||Up to one year in jail and a $2,500 fine|
|Indiana||Class A, B, or C||Up to one year in jail and a $5,000 fine|
|Iowa||Aggravated, serious, or simple misdemeanor||Up to two years in jail|
|Kanas||Class A, B, or C||Up to one year in jail and a $2,500 fine|
|Kentucky||Class A or B||Up to one year in jail|
|Maine||Class D or E||Up to one year in jail and a $2,000 fine|
|Michigan||By punishment||Up to two years in prison and a $2,000 fine|
|Minnesota||Gross, regular, or petty misdemeanor||Up to one year in jail and a $3,000 fine|
|Missouri||Class A, B, or C||Up to one year in jail and a $2,000 fine|
|Nebraska||Class I, II, III, IIIA, IV, or V||Up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine|
|Nevada||Gross misdemeanor or misdemeanor||Up to one year in jail and a $2,000 fine|
|New Hampshire||Class A or B||Less than one year and a $2,000 fine|
|New Jersey||Disorderly person offense or petty disorderly person offense||Up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine|
|New Mexico||Misdemeanor or petty misdemeanor||Less than one year and a $1,000 fine|
|New York||Class A, B, or unclassified||Up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine|
|North Carolina||Class A1, 1, 2, or 3||Up to 150 days in jail|
|North Dakota||Class A or B||Up to a year imprisonment and a $3,000 fine|
|Ohio||First, second, third, fourth, or minor misdemeanor||Up to 180 days in jail and a $3,000 fine|
|Oregon||Class A, B, C, or unclassified||Up to one year in jail and a $6,250 fine|
|Pennsylvania||First, second, or third misdemeanor||Up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine|
|Rhode Island||Misdemeanor or petty misdemeanor||Up to a year imprisonment and a $1,000 fine|
|South Carolina||Class A, B, or C||No more than 3 years and a $2,500 fine|
|South Dakota||Class 1 or 2||Up to one year imprisonment and a $2,000 fine|
|Tennessee||Class A, B, or C||Less than a year in jail and a $2,500 fine|
|Texas||Class A, B, or C||Up to a year in jail and a $4,000 fine|
|Utah||Class A, B, or C||Up to a year in jail and a $2,500 fine|
|Virginia||Class 1, 2, 3, or 4||Up to one year in jail and a $2,500 fine|
|Washington||Gross misdemeanor or misdemeanor||Up to 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine|
|West Virginia||By crime||N/A|
|Wisconsin||Class A, B, or C||Up to nine months imprisonment and no more than a $10,000 fine|
As you can see, some states don’t even use levels to classify misdemeanors. Instead, prosecutors hand out punishments based on which statute and punishment best describe the crime.
What Does Each Level Mean?
As we mentioned, each state uses different terminology and has different punishments for misdemeanor charges. At the federal level (18 U.S.C. § 3559,) there are three misdemeanor levels:
- Class A misdemeanor serves more than six months, but never more than a year.
- Class B misdemeanor serves more than a month, but never more than six months.
- Class C misdemeanor serves more than five days, but never more than a month.
A class A misdemeanor is the most serious misdemeanor offense. This may include a DUI, theft, domestic violence, or assault. If there are more aggravated circumstances involved, the crime could become a felony. In some states, this level of a misdemeanor may be called a gross misdemeanor, an aggravated misdemeanor, or a serious misdemeanor.
Prosecutors ultimately decide how they wish to charge a crime. This may be determined by if there was a victim and how severe the injuries are. Oftentimes, prosecutors will try to “overcharge” crimes in an attempt to pressure defendants into pleading guilty to a lesser charge. However, with the help of a lawyer, defendants can essentially attempt to do the same thing.
Also Read: Misdemeanor Vs. Felony Charges and Sentences
The “Wobbler” Offense – Felonies, Misdemeanors, and Infractions
Although prosecutors will try to overexaggerate the nature of the crime, a good defense lawyer can also bring the court back to reality. A “wobbler” offense means a criminal charge can have multiple classifications depending on the state’s penal code. In other words, a misdemeanor offense can become either a felony or infraction based on the circumstances.
Other factors a court may look at when deciding the level of the crime include looking into the extent of the damages, your standing in the community, and any other previous criminal records.
For example, let’s say you’re caught shoplifting a pair of headphones. The prosecutor tries to charge you with a serious misdemeanor. However, because your lawyer was able to show that you have no previous offenses and the headphones were less than $20, you’re instead charged with an infraction.
Also Read: How To Get a Misdemeanor Expunged
Changing The Seriousness of an Offense
Although it seems pretty straightforward to just simply tell the court your side of the story, it’s going to take a lot more than “speaking your truth” to lower misdemeanor charges. The best way to get the level of misdemeanor charges lowered is to work with a quality criminal lawyer. To find a criminal lawyer in your state who can help lower your misdemeanor charges, call MyCaseHelper today.
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