Defending against any criminal charge is serious business. The consequences for even a single misdemeanor conviction can be far-reaching, and could impact your career, housing options, and financial future. Whether you have been accused of a petty offense or a felony, it is critical that you have a skilled criminal defense lawyer on your side. A lawyer who has extensive experience handling misdemeanor cases can review the evidence and prepare a strong legal strategy to protect your rights in court.
Misdemeanor offenses are less serious than a felony, and typically carry a maximum jail sentence of no more than one year. A conviction for a misdemeanor crime can also result in a fine. The amount of the fine depends on the crime, but can easily reach into the thousands of dollars. The law of most states distinguishes between simple and aggravated misdemeanors, with the latter being more severe crimes that may result in higher fines.
A conviction for a misdemeanor will create a criminal record that can be accessed by the public, including employers, landlords, banks, and others. A momentary lapse in judgment can have lifelong repercussions, especially now that many employers require background checks before hiring new employees. The record can have negative employment consequences, as well as affect your ability to rent or purchase a home or car, and in some states, to obtain professional licenses.
There are several ways that a misdemeanor conviction can be expunged from your record, depending on state and county laws. Most states will allow a defendant to petition the court for expungement after a certain period of time has passed since the crime was committed. Some states will automatically expunge a misdemeanor conviction that has been on your record for two years or more, while others require the defendant to request the expungement and prove that there are extenuating circumstances.
For most classes of misdemeanor, the judge will impose the maximum sentence possible, for example 364 days and $5000 in the case of a gross misdemeanor, but will suspend most or all of the time and fine. The defendant will then be required to serve and pay what is not suspended.
If the crime involved damage to a victim, the victim can submit a Victim Impact Statement to the court, which can help the Judge determine if restitution should be included in the sentence. In some states, restitution is mandatory in misdemeanor cases where there has been an injury to a victim.
A felony conviction can have devastating consequences for a person’s life, and may result in incarceration. Felonies are the most serious criminal offenses, and include crimes like murder, rape, domestic violence, burglary, theft and fraud, white collar crimes, and more. Felonies are punishable by more than a year in county or city jail (often at Rikers Island), and sometimes a lifetime ban on owning firearms and other dangerous weapons, loss of voting privileges, and the right to hold certain types of public office.