A person facing misdemeanor charges may benefit from the services of a Misdemeanor Defense Lawyer. A good attorney can help them gather evidence and identify any problems with the prosecutor’s case.
Although they are less severe than felonies, misdemeanor convictions can still carry jail time and fines. A conviction can also ruin your future prospects by interfering with employment, housing and even child custody.
Classification of Misdemeanors
Almost every state in the US classifies misdemeanor crimes according to their severity. Some states use a simple letter system, while others have several different classes.
Misdemeanors are less serious crimes than felonies and generally involve crimes against property or people. How serious the crime is depends on a number of factors, including where it was committed, who or what it was committed against, and its impact.
Despite being less serious than felonies, a conviction of a misdemeanor can still result in jail time and fines and will leave a criminal record that could interfere with housing and employment opportunities, and even lead to losing professional licenses or being denied security clearance. It is important to hire a criminal defense lawyer to fight the charges. The lawyer will take a close look at your case and the evidence to create an effective defense strategy. The lawyer will also help you avoid having a misdemeanor charge upgraded to a felony.
Punishment for Misdemeanor Crimes
Less serious than felonies but more serious than infractions, misdemeanors are punishable by a maximum of one year of county jail time. A conviction for a misdemeanor may also result in probation, conditional discharge, fines and mandatory state surcharges, community service, orders of protection in favor of the victim, and driver’s license revocation or suspension (if it involves DWI).
In many cases, especially with first offenses, a defendant might be eligible to participate in a pretrial diversion program. In a typical diversion case, the judge suspends sentence and gives the defendant a chance to complete certain requirements that the court deems appropriate for the crime.
It is important to take any misdemeanor charge seriously. A misdemeanor conviction can show up on a background check, which can make it harder to get a job, rent an apartment, or obtain student financial aid. An experienced criminal defense attorney may be able to have your misdemeanor charges reduced or dismissed altogether.
Defenses for Misdemeanor Crimes
A misdemeanor conviction can significantly impact your life, making it difficult to maintain employment or get a loan for school. A conviction also leaves a stain on your record that can make it hard to find a job, and you may have to explain the crime on employment applications or when applying for housing.
A knowledgeable criminal defense attorney can often prevent a misdemeanor charge from going on your permanent record or minimize the severity of the penalty. For example, a lawyer can argue that the prosecutor is overcharging the crime by accusing you of a higher level offense than the one for which you are charged.
A criminal defense attorney can also help you avoid jail time by arguing that you are not guilty of the crime or that the evidence against you is inadmissible. He or she can also try to have the charges dropped if you agree to participate in community service, drug and alcohol rehabilitation classes, or another diversion program.
Some crimes are wobbler offenses, meaning that the prosecution can decide whether to try them as a felony or misdemeanor. Felonies carry harsher penalties, including mandatory prison time, while misdemeanors have no minimum jail term.
The prosecution can choose to upgrade a wobbler offense into a felony when the crime has certain elements, such as being aggravated, or when the defendant has previous convictions that make the crime more serious. The judge can also reduce a felony to a misdemeanor based on mitigating circumstances such as first-time offender status, minimal involvement in the crime, a lack of harm to others, and good behavior during probation.
A felony conviction, however, can have serious consequences for a person’s life. For example, convicted felons are not allowed to serve in the Armed Forces and may lose their pensions. After a felony has been reduced to a misdemeanor, if eligible, it can be expunged from your record. A skilled criminal defense attorney can work on your behalf for expungement eligibility after you complete your probation.