In the United States, crimes are divided into two categories: misdemeanor and felony offenses.
A misdemeanor is considered a “lesser” criminal offense not only because of the lesser severity of the crime but also because of the less severe possible punishments attached to committing it. For the federal government and in most states, a misdemeanor is a crime that are punishable by fines and/or incarceration for up to a year in jail; for anything longer than a year’s incarceration, a defendant is looking at “prison” and in most instances, a felony charge.
Misdemeanors may also be further broken down into categories or “classes” by some jurisdictions; for example, some states have Class A and Class B misdemeanors while other states use a numbering system (Class 1, Class 2, etc.); again the crimes are grouped according to the severity of the offense and potential punishment. The higher the letter or number, the more serious the infraction.
What are common misdemeanors that you might find on the law books?
Some examples of misdemeanors are listed below, although keep in mind that many have felony counterparts as well; in some states these are known as “wobblers” because a prosecuting attorney has the discretion on pursuing the charge as either a misdemeanor or felony.
- Assault with Bodily Injury
- Check Forgery
- Criminal Mischief
- Criminal Trespass
- Cruelty to Animals
- Driving Under the Influence (DUI)
- Indecent Exposure
- Possession of Firearms
- Possession of Marijuana
- Public Nuisance
- Reckless Driving
- Resisting Arrest
If you are unsure as to what qualifies as a misdemeanor or a felony in your state, you are advised to contact a local criminal defense attorney for advice.
Whether you are charged with a misdemeanor or felony can also have repercussions down the road regarding your ability to own firearms, vote in federal elections, and more, so be sure you are well-informed.