What is a Misdemeanor Arrest?

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  • Written By: N. Madison
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 16 February 2020
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A misdemeanor arrest is an arrest that occurs because a person has committed or is accused of a misdemeanor. In countries and jurisdictions that place crimes into misdemeanor and felony categories, misdemeanors are considered less serious, while felonies are considered the most serious of crimes. For example, petty theft may be considered a misdemeanor in some places, while murder is considered a felony.

Some countries do not classify criminal arrests as misdemeanors or felonies. This method of classification is typically used in common law countries. Some other countries classify crimes as summary offenses and indictable offenses. A summary offense is often referred to as a petty crime for which convicted individuals may receive shorter jail terms. Indictable offenses are considered more serious and typically carry longer sentences; these crimes are similar to felonies. The United States is a country in which crimes are classified as misdemeanors and felonies, while the United Kingdom uses the summary and indictable offense classification.

There are many crimes that may lead to a misdemeanor arrest. In some places, petty theft and receiving stolen property are considered misdemeanors. A person commits petty theft by taking another person’s personal property with the intent to keep it permanently, dispose of it, give it away, or sell it. The petty theft designation may be used for theft crimes that involve a lower amount of money or low property value. Receiving stolen property involves accepting items an individual knows are stolen.


Trespassing is another crime that may garner a misdemeanor arrest. This involves going onto another person’s property illegally, especially if the individual who does so knows he’s not permitted to be there. Public drunkenness, which is simply being drunk in a public place, is another type of crime that may be considered a misdemeanor. In some places, prostitution may be considered a misdemeanor as well.

Often, individuals who are convicted of misdemeanors face less severe penalties than they would expect with more serious criminal charges. In many jurisdictions, these crimes carry jail sentences of less than one year. Jail time is often spent in a local or county jail rather than a prison, and some misdemeanor charges carry both monetary fines and jail time. Not every misdemeanor arrest ends in jail time, however. Sometimes convictions lead to suspended sentences, probation, or community service instead. Others require the convicted person to pay a fine rather than serving jail time.


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Post 6

Generally, misdemeanors are punishable by a sentence of less than one year in jail (11 months and 29 days, or less). Felonies are punishable by a sentence of one year or more.

Post 5

@Charred - If an employer wants to know your entire misdemeanor criminal record, they can do that by running a background search and finding out.

Personally I don’t think they care about your speeding ticket. They are more concerned with criminal offenses, and even your credit rating, to determine how stable you are and ensure that you will not pose any threats to the company.

I generally leave small stuff like moving violations off any applications for employment, unless they clearly spell out that they want to know about misdemeanor charges.

Post 4

@David09 - That is a funny story, and highly unusual. I guess we shouldn’t drive too slowly, although I honestly have never had a problem with that.

My concern is about how misdemeanor offenses impact your employment record. On some employment applications I am asked if I have ever been arrested for anything.

I don’t want to tell them about the time I got a speeding ticket, because I assume (hopefully correctly) that they are asking about bigger crimes and not petty infractions. Do you think I am doing the right thing?

Post 3

Speeding is a misdemeanor, and I think we all can relate to that.

However, I have a funny story to tell. One night I was driving along a road and got pulled over by a cop – for driving too slow! I was going 35 MPH in a 55 MPH zone. He said that you have to drive a minimum of 10 miles per hour below the speed limit otherwise you would be impeding traffic flow.

I apologized and told him that I just happened to be a very careful driver. After doing a background check on me he gave me a warning and let me go; but he told me that if he wanted he could have fined me for $200.

Post 2

@B707 -My brother, who is a lawyer, said you have to look at the state's statutes, where you live, to find out if an offense is a misdemeanor or a felony.

Descriptions of the misdemeanors and felonies are in a state's law codes. So you just need to look up the offense and the crimes will be classified.

You need to know the facts of what happened and then go to the statutes. For example, if a criminal physically harms another intentionally or in a reckless manner, he committed a misdemeanor in the 1st degree.

But, if a caretaker of a disabled person assaults that disabled person, the caretaker will be charged with a felony in the 3rd degree. Of course, this depends on the law code in the state where the crime was committed.

Post 1

I'm a little confused about how one would determine whether an offense is a felony or a misdemeanor. There are some crimes that are obviously felonies, like first degree murder, and stealing a large amount of property.

But there are some that are a little fuzzy. Anyone know how the legal system figures these out?

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