Definition of Misdemeanor Crimes
Misdemeanor crimes are crimes that are classified as more serious than infractions and less serious than felony crimes. While they are less serious than felonies, misdemeanor crimes are still serious and can attract jail time and large fines.
How Are Misdemeanor Crimes Classified
There is no strict rule about what a misdemeanor is and isn’t. In the most general sense, most misdemeanors are classified as crimes that can carry sentences of up to a year. Felonies will generally carry jail sentences of a year or more, so that is one way the law differentiates these crimes.
In some cases, the law will classify certain crimes as misdemeanor in the criminal code for that specific crime. It may also list aggravating factors that may push the penalty from a misdemeanor to a felony or add extra jail time to a misdemeanor charge. It is worth noting that crimes may be charged as misdemeanor crimes in certain states and felonies in others.
Examples of Misdemeanor Crimes
The following crimes are usually charged as misdemeanors:
- Drunk driving
- Petty theft
- Simple assault or battery
- Resisting arrest
- Drug possession
- Indecent exposure
- Prostitution or solicitation
What Impact Do Misdemeanor Crimes Have on Someone’s Life?
If you are charged with one or more misdemeanor crimes, it will appear on your criminal record and have a serious effect on your life. The law, and society in general, takes misdemeanor crimes seriously, and it can affect your prospects until you have the charges expunged. You may find it more difficult to obtain jobs and housing. It may also affect other people’s opinions of you when they find out about your misdemeanor crimes. Depending on your charge, you may have restrictions placed on you even after you have served your time, such as attending AA or NA meeting, not associating with criminals, or even curfews.
Why Are Some Misdemeanor Crimes Called Wobblers?
The term wobbler is a rather inelegant (but fitting) legal term that means a crime is mostly charged as a misdemeanor but in certain scenarios may be charged as a felony. In reality, most misdemeanor crimes are wobblers as the law takes aggravating factors seriously and will increase misdemeanor crimes to felonies if they are present.
Aggravating factors that may upgrade misdemeanor crimes to a felony include:
- A gun being used in a crime even if it is unloaded and not fired during the crime
- Stealing items off someone’s person (in terms of petty theft)
- If a certain value threshold is crossed (varies depending on the crime)
- The defendant has a serious criminal record
- The defendant’s behavior was particularly violent, malicious, or threatening
Basically, in the eyes of the law, the more potential there was for someone to be harmed, the more likely the misdemeanor crime will be charged as a felony.
Wobblers also work in reverse. In some cases, a felony crime can be downgraded to a misdemeanor crime if the defendant’s conduct is less serious or they assist with the investigation.