How serious is a misdemeanor charge?
A person faced with a misdemeanor charge may find some comfort in thinking that it could be worse, like a felony charge. While that is one point in that direction, it is still a criminal charge that will stay with you. A misdemeanor charge can affect future employment, getting a driver’s license, firearm possession, and other things in your life.
In Clearwater Florida, a misdemeanor can be punished by up to twelve months in the county jail with a $1,000.00 fine for a first-degree. A second-degree misdemeanor is punishable for up to 60 days with a $500.00 fine.
So, no, a misdemeanor isn’t as serious as a felony, as we’ve just reviewed above. However, with the possibility of one year incarcerated in county jail, it is a level of seriousness. When charged with a misdemeanor, a citation is issued by the arresting police officer, or a complaint may be filed by a prosecutor. The citation or complaint will state if the offense is a felony, a misdemeanor or infraction. An infraction is the least serious level of offense, i.e., a traffic violation. The penalty for this level is typically a fine of $100 plus court costs.
You can be charged with any of these levels, but until you’re convicted by a judge and/or jury, it is only an arrest, not a conviction. So, you can have an arrest for a misdemeanor without conviction may not affect your future employment, getting and keeping your driver’s license, or purchasing and have possession of a firearm.
Examples of an infraction are:
- Traffic violations
- Boating; Fishing without a license
- Building permit
- Running a business without a license
- Public intoxication
Examples of a misdemeanor could vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but common misdemeanor is typically:
- Disorderly conduct
- Firearm discharge in city limits
- Petty theft
- Public intoxication
- Simple assault
- Reckless driving
Can you go to jail for a misdemeanor?
Yes, every misdemeanor offense can carry a maximum penalty which may vary from state to state, with anywhere from six months incarceration to 1 year plus a $1,000 fine. Typically, a first-time offense is not sentenced to any time behind bars, but instead, would be charged with a misdemeanor with probation of any length as determined by the judge.
Do you have to go to court for a misdemeanor?
A misdemeanor will typically begin with a citation issued by law enforcement. The officer may take you to jail then or the citation will have a date stated that will require your presence in court for an arraignment. There are some misdemeanor charges where going to jail isn’t an option, like a DWI or DUI.
Does a misdemeanor ruin your life?
Yes, pretty much. A misdemeanor isn’t as serious as a felony, but a crime is a crime and it will be in your criminal record for the rest of your life. So, if you are completing a job application, answer yes to the question “Have you ever been convicted of a crime?”. Offer an explanation should you get to the interview process, but by law, a prospective employer cannot ask.
Being convicted for any level of crime, misdemeanor or felony, will do more than hurt your chance at a job. It can affect your professional license eligibility, you can lose custody of your child(ren), you will be ineligible for food stamps, student loans, and public health care or public housing assistance. If you’re not from this country, you could find yourself deported.
In most jurisdictions within the United States, a misdemeanor offense is punishable by sentenced to 12 months in jail, possibly a fine community service, and/or probation. The jail time will be in a local or county jail, not a federal prison. The only way to get a misdemeanor off your records is to file to have the charges expunged or your records sealed.
Can a first-time misdemeanor be dismissed?
As soon as you’ve been arrested or received a citation for a misdemeanor, hiring a defense attorney is the best thing you can do. With their experience, based on your criminal history (if any), the accused crime, and other circumstances, they might have the charges reduced, expunged, dropped, or your file sealed. If you’re feeling lucky, you can roll the dice, so to speak, and if the complainant or arresting officer do not show up on your court date, they could dismiss your misdemeanor.
While a misdemeanor isn’t as serious as a felony, it shouldn’t be taken lightly either. We provided a few examples of what is considered a felony vs what is considered a misdemeanor. Unfortunately, there can a different severity level of any crime. It is always in the best interest of the person accused or arrested to seek the professional help of a defense attorney. They will know the ins and outs, the potholes and the way around the court system to get that person the best outcome possible. Dial 727-571-9999 for your misdemeanor bail needs in St. Petersburg, FL