Misdemeanor Criminal Charges

Common Misdemeanors and How They Can Impact Your Life

What are Misdemeanor Criminal Charges?

The legal definition of misdemeanor varies depending on jurisdiction.

Conversely, going through the legal process in California for committing a common misdemeanor is anything but fun. However, it has the same basic mechanics as a sandcastle contest - the person who commits the gravest misdemeanor gets the most severe punishment as imposed by the law.

What is a misdemeanor?

The legal definition of misdemeanor varies depending on jurisdiction.

In the United States, a misdemeanor is classified as a criminal offense with lesser penalties than a felony but has greater punishment than an infraction. Crimes considered as felonies are homicide, murder, burglary, rape, and kidnapping. Examples of infractions are littering, committing minor traffic violations, walking a dog in public without a leash, fishing without a license, not having a business license or permit, and jaywalking.

What are common misdemeanors?

Common misdemeanors include possession of controlled substances or drugs, petty theft, vandalism, perjury, prostitution, indecent exposure, trespassing, basic assault, resisting arrest, public intoxication, and DUI (Driving under the Influence). Some jurisdictions refer to the person who commits a misdemeanor as a misdemeanant.

Some jurisdictions refer to the person who commits a misdemeanor as a misdemeanant.

Can a common misdemeanor be elevated to a felony?

If you have committed a misdemeanor more than once, your charges can be elevated to a felony. The usual example is a driving violation that has been done twice or repeatedly. At the same time, if such a misdemeanor was committed with aggravating elements or circumstances, then you can be automatically charged with a felony. Examples are misdemeanors committed in the presence of a minor or if they were perpetrated to cause cruelty or depravity to the victim.

What is a wobbler?

If you’ve been to a sporting event where fans are given figurine replicas of famous athletes with wobbly heads that bounce from left to right, you’ll have a better understanding of what a wobbler is.

In the legal world, a person who has committed a crime that may or may not be charged with a misdemeanor or a felony is sometimes referred to as a wobbler. Depending on the type of crime that was committed, the jurisdiction dictates whether it will be classified under misdemeanor or felony; or misdemeanor or infraction.

To illustrate, if you have committed a DUI which caused death or some serious damage to property, then your misdemeanor charges may be elevated to result in more serious penalties when they get reclassified as a felony. Brandishing a weapon or assaulting someone with a deadly weapon is also considered a wobbler.

In the same manner, your felony charges may be reduced to a misdemeanor charge based on legal factors and circumstances. Oftentimes if the misdemeanant pleads guilty, the misdemeanor charges are downgraded to mere infractions.

What are the penalties for common misdemeanors

Different jurisdictions have specific classifications with corresponding penalties for misdemeanors. Generally, misdemeanors involve fines and jail time where the misdemeanant is ordered to spend time in the local jail. Infractions, on the other hand, do not involve jail time.

In California, common misdemeanors fall under two categories – standard and gross (or aggravated). For standard misdemeanors, the misdemeanant may be ordered to spend up to 6 months in a county or local jail and pay a fine that does not exceed $1,000.

Gross or aggravated misdemeanors are more severe crimes that have heavier penalties. If you are convicted of a gross or aggravated misdemeanor, jail time can be as long as 364 days and you may pay a fine that exceeds $1,000.

Common misdemeanors that fall under standard include public intoxication, possession of drugs or controlled substances, prostitution, petty theft, shoplifting and trespassing. If you have been charged with indecent exposure in public, your first offense is considered a standard misdemeanor.

Gross or aggravated misdemeanors include DUI charges that did not result in injury and domestic battery. If your driver’s license has been suspended and you continue to drive your vehicle and get pulled over by authorities, you will be charged with gross or aggravated misdemeanor.

What should you expect after being charged with a common misdemeanor

The legal process has a system that needs to be followed after a misdemeanor arrest has been made.

If you are in California and get arrested or charged for a misdemeanor, expect to have an arraignment where you appear in court for a formal reading of your crime. There you will be formally charged and given an opportunity to plea. Depending on the severity of your misdemeanor, you may go through additional processes such as bail hearings, pre-trials and jury trials; and if you’re not satisfied with the results of your legal trials, you may have the opportunity to appeal your case to a higher court.

Do common misdemeanors show up in background checks?

Even though misdemeanors are considered less serious offenses as compared to felonies, the legal system does not discriminate when it comes to documenting the crimes that were committed. Your misdemeanor charges will be on your criminal records and will stay on your criminal record permanently - for life. If anyone is doing a criminal background check on you, your misdemeanor charges will definitely show up.

With regard to employment background checks, your criminal record may or may not appear depending on how thorough and meticulous the employer’s background checks are designed to be. Because common misdemeanors are processed locally, a state background check run by the employer may not catch your criminal record unless the process being used is more in-depth and inclusive.

How do you get a common misdemeanor off your record?

Getting your misdemeanor charges off your record is possible depending on the jurisdiction. If you have only committed a single common misdemeanor, your chances of getting it taken off your record is better than when you have multiple charges. However, a lengthy process of court appearances and endless trails or paperwork may be required and you must prepare for it. Expungement also involves a lot of time and filing fees that vary by location.

In California, expungement is possible but it requires a process which involves reopening your criminal case and getting your criminal conviction dismissed in court.

To begin the process of getting your criminal record erased, you have to make sure you are eligible for it. When filing for expungement, you must not be currently serving another criminal sentence or charged for another criminal offense and that one year has already passed since your misdemeanor conviction.

How does a common misdemeanor charge affect you?

Committing a misdemeanor can change your life.

Although some people tend to dismiss common misdemeanors such as DUI, public intoxication or vandalism as minor, committing them can impact the most important aspects in your life especially when it comes to fostering personal, business or social relationships.

Having a permanent criminal record as a result of being convicted of a misdemeanor also has a huge influence on the outcome of your efforts to obtain jobs or seek opportunities, be elected in civic or societal positions, or maintain existing positions, titles and licenses.

Because your criminal record is public and permanent, it may also significantly affect your credibility as a person which can change the way people treat you as an individual whether or not you had exemplary behavior and character prior to your conviction.

If you have any questions about the information provided above, please contact us today. Call us toll free at (800) 215-1190 or fill out out online form for your Traffic Law driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol lawyer referral.


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