When arrested for a crime, such a crime can be classified as a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the facts of the case. If you have been slammed with misdemeanor charges, there are some things you should be aware of. In this article, we take a look at all the important aspects of a misdemeanor charge that you should be familiar with.

Misdemeanor crime

A misdemeanor crime is any crime that is considered to be more serious than a citation. While a misdemeanor crime is ranked high above any crime that would earn the perpetrator a citation, it is ranked lower compared to a felony charge and we still recommend you get a criminal defense lawyer

Misdemeanor crimes, in essence, are less serious crimes and this, in turn, affects the type of punishment that is meted out on the perpetrator. In many of the states across the United States, one of the most common highlights of misdemeanor crimes is the fact that perpetrators can get no more than a year prison jail sentence as opposed to felony convictions that carry lengthy sentences in the state prison facility.

Misdemeanor crimes can be regarded as an umbrella body that houses a number of crimes that may have been committed by a person. Such crimes that are broadly categorized under misdemeanor may include battery, assault, property crimes, and other violations.

The punishment for misdemeanor charges may vary from one state to another based on state laws and this may also influence the type of crimes that are qualified to be regarded as misdemeanors. In some states, there are some crimes described as “wobblers”. Wobblers are crimes that can be viewed either as a felony or misdemeanor. However, the classification of the crime perpetrated into either of the classes is dependent on the facts of the case, type and extent of the injury suffered, extent or value of the stolen or damaged property and more.

States like Connecticut, Virginia, and California have active wobbler classifications while Alabama does not recognize such a category.

Misdemeanor: What Are The Common Crimes Classified As Misdemeanor?

Misdemeanor charges are those that are regarded to be less serious compared to felonies but much more serious than one that would earn the perpetrator a citation. Some of the common misdemeanor charges that people may be faced with include;

  • Gun possession violations
  • Perjury crimes
  • Theft, Larceny, and other related crimes involving property,
  • Assault and battery cases and other offenses that are regarded as relatively minor
  • Traffic offenses like drunk driving or DUI
  • Obscenity and related crimes.
  • Possession of illegal or controlled substances and drug crimes

While the above-named crimes are generally considered to be misdemeanors, some states, due to their existing laws may consider one or more of these crimes to be more severe thus regarding it as a felony. It is best that when you or a loved one has been arrested and charged to court for one or more of these crimes, an experienced attorney should be sought out to explain in detail what you are faced with and what you stand to lose.

Unclassified Misdemeanors

Misdemeanor crimes in most states are classified into various classes based on their severity. Some states recognize these classes as Class A, Class B or Class 1, Class 2. Whatever method of classification is chosen as preferential in the state where the crime has been committed, it is important to note the corresponding punishment to each class will be meted out on the offender.

In some cases, some crimes do not fit well into certain classes and this may lead to unclassified misdemeanors. To cater to such cases as this, some states in the U.S. have created the Unclassified misdemeanor class which allows offenders who fall into such unique class a defined punishment.

Unclassified misdemeanors may be in the form of littering, gambling crimes, traffic offenses, and others.

Gross Misdemeanor

Even under misdemeanors, there are some offenses that are considered to have grave consequences compared to others. There are simple misdemeanors and gross misdemeanor charges. Gross misdemeanor charges are those that are considered to be serious and of more harm compared to the regular or simple misdemeanors.

Such crimes that qualify as gross misdemeanors may include drunk driving, stalking, aggravated assaults, and other repeat offenses.

Although a gross misdemeanor is considered to be serious in nature, they are still classified to be less serious when compared to felony charges.

How is Misdemeanor punished?

Misdemeanor crimes are most often times punished with a mix of fine and jail time. While in some cases defendants may face either of the options, others may face both.

A misdemeanor offense usually carries no more than one-year jail time which may or may not be paired with no more than $1,000 in fines. In certain cases, the judgment may be dependent on the type of crime that has been committed, the extent of damage and other factors.

Misdemeanor classes and their legal implications

While misdemeanor has been revealed to carry a fine of no more than $1,000 and a jail time of no more than one year, it is important to remember that misdemeanor charges are classified based on their severity. Below are some of the punishment allotted to each class of misdemeanor charges.

Class A or Class 1 misdemeanor: no more than one year in jail and/or $2,500 in fines

Class B or Class 2: No more than six months in jail and/or $1,000 in fines

Class C or Class 3: No more than three months in jail and/or $500 in fines;

Class D or Class 4: No more than one month in jail and/or $250 in fines.


While the above is a general representation of the penalties, in some states, the punishment may differ.

What Defenses Can My Lawyer Employ In Misdemeanor Cases?

There are several criminal defenses that apply to misdemeanor cases. Depending on the situation, a lawyer may be able to raise some defenses to counter the allegations against his or her client.

Below are some of the common defenses employed when defending different misdemeanors in court.

  • Lack of evidence: a lawyer may argue that the prosecuting counsel does not have sufficient evidence to prove that his or her client is guilty of the crimes alleged.
  • Intoxication: A defense attorney may also argue that his or her client may have been intoxicated at the time the crime was committed. This defense shifts the responsibility for the crime away from the consciousness of the defendant and may win him or her a lenient punishment.
  • Coercion: A defense attorney may argue that his or her client had been coerced or put under duress while giving the incriminating testimony. This defense may see to it that the evidence presented by the prosecuting counsel is dismissed.
  • Self-defense: In a case of assault, or battery, a defense attorney may claim that the injuries sustained by the other party were a result of the defendant’s reaction in self-defense.
By: Dan Murphy

Denver criminal defense lawyer Daniel M. Murphy provides clients in the Denver area with aggressive and sympathetic legal representation. He graduated from the University of Denver Law School in 1994 and worked as a public defender before starting his own practice in 1996. He has defended clients accused of the most difficult criminal and alcohol-related charges. He also serves as a Moot Court Judge for Denver-area law students who rely on his mentorship.