A misdemeanor charge is one that, in general, carries a maximum jail sentence of less than one year. A misdemeanor conviction may also result in fines and penalties, as well as the risk of losing professional licensure or difficultly obtaining employment in the future. As part of your misdemeanor defense, your criminal defense attorney may advocate for alternative sentencing measures, including probation, or community service. Your attorney will also fight to keep the conviction off of your official criminal history; this is particularly important if you need a clean record to maintain or obtain employment in your particular field.
Misdemeanor crimes are less serious in nature than felonies and generally do not involve extreme violence or extensive property damage. First or second DUI charges, simple assault, petty theft (e.g., shoplifting) or disorderly conduct are all examples of misdemeanor crimes. However, multiple and repeated charges for the same misdemeanor crime could eventually result in a felony charge and possible lengthy jail time or hefty fines. For example, a third or fourth DUI conviction may result in a felony charge. A theft crime may be classified as a felony if the value of the stolen item is in excess of a certain dollar amount.
Those charged with a misdemeanor offense are often eligible for representation by a public defender and may be tempted to try and defend the charges pro se. This is unwise for a number of reasons and could result in an unnecessary conviction when an ample defense may have been available. When you first meet with your attorney, you will discuss the facts surrounding your arrest and charge, including the events leading up to the incident and any mischaracterizations you believe were made by the arresting officers. Preparation for your misdemeanor trial may include any of the following:
- Interviewing witnesses and preparing witnesses to testify;
- Reviewing lab reports or the details of a field sobriety test;
- Speaking with arresting officers and examining the details contained in the arrest report;
- Negotiating with the prosecutor to obtain a dismissal or reduction in charges;
- Offering an alternative sentencing arrangement to include rehabilitative treatment, or;
- Arguing for the suppression of certain evidence obtained in violation of your constitutional rights.