Learn something new every day More Info... by email
A misdemeanor is a crime which is deemed less serious than a felony, but more serious than an infraction. Misdemeanor punishment norms vary, depending on where one is, and not all governments distinguish a particular class of crimes as misdemeanors. Such crimes are generally associated with low levels of financial or personal damage; throwing a rock through a window might be a misdemeanor, for example, while beating someone with that rock would be felony assault.
Some examples of misdemeanor punishment include: fines, prison, or forfeiture. Usually fines for misdemeanors are capped by law, and in regions where there is a misdemeanor classification for certain types of crimes, misdemeanors may be broken up into various lesser classes. Depending on what class a misdemeanor falls under, the amount of the fine might vary, and a judge may be given final discretion when it comes to deciding exactly how heavy a fine should be.
Prison time associated with misdemeanor punishment is usually less than one year, and may be less than six months. Prisoners may also be kept in low security prisons, reflecting the fact that they are not considered a serious threat to society. People also generally get credit for time served, if, for example, they spent several nights in jail after being picked up for a misdemeanor offense.
Forfeiture may be deemed an appropriate misdemeanor punishment in some cases. Judges can also sentence people to community service sometimes, an option which may appeal for first offenses or minor misdemeanors. In this case, a set number of hours must be donated to a court-approved charitable cause.
Misdemeanors do remain on someone's record, but they are less serious than felonies. Infractions, such as traffic tickets, can often be erased from someone's criminal record, with some regions limiting the number of infractions which can be erased within a set period. An attorney can sometimes help negotiate a lighter misdemeanor punishment by presenting compelling evidence and arguments to the judge. However, some judges have an area of particular concern or interest and they may give the maximum sentence in this area as part of their judicial philosophy, whether or not a good lawyer has been retained.
The relatively light nature of misdemeanor punishment has been criticized in some areas of the world. Some people believe that light punishments do not create sufficient deterrence, which may encourage people to commit such crimes because they believe that the consequences are not very serious.
@Subway11 - I know what you are saying, and they are creating more monitoring devices to keep track of habitual offenders. They are trying to pass a law in Florida that requires that those charged with a repeat DUI offense will have to use a machine that is connected to the ignition of the car that will not allow the car to start if the driver is impaired.
The cost will also be up the defendant. There are people for and against the bill as you can imagine, but at least law makers are trying to do more about these laws. I know for example, in most states the misdemeanors are classified by the severity of the crime.
example, a class a misdemeanor punishment in Texas can result in up to a $4,000 fine and a year in prison. A class b misdemeanor punishment in Texas carries a fine of up to $2,000 and up to a six month prison term.
SauteePan - I think that DUIs should not be classified as a misdemeanor but it should go under a felony classification instead. A DUI can not only kill the driver that is impaired but he or she can also kill those around them.
I don’t think that we should have to wait for this driver charged with a DUI to actually kill someone before we upgrade the charges to a felony. This is really reckless behavior and I think that the penalties should be a little stiffer so that people would be afraid to take the chance.
I know that punishment for misdemeanors can vary. I was reading that with some misdemeanor charges the prosecutors can offer the defendant a chance to participate in a diversion program which is geared toward first time offenders of petty crimes.
For example, if a person that is caught shoplifting, a first time offender would probably be offered a diversion program. This is an educational program that the defendant agrees to participate in as well as committing to many hours of community service. I was also reading that some misdemeanors could be expunged from the record while others can’t.
For example, the types of misdemeanor charges that would not be expungeable would be a DUI or a domestic assault
charge because these charges affect the public safety so they need to remain on the record in case the defendant commits the same crime again.
If he or she does then they can upgrade the charges to a felony misdemeanor especially in DUI cases. But if the crime is a petty theft like a shoplifting case many states will allow the record to be expunged after the defendant completes his probationary period.
One of our editors will review your suggestion and make changes if warranted. Note that depending on the number of suggestions we receive, this can take anywhere from a few hours to a few days. Thank you for helping to improve wiseGEEK!