MISDEMEANORS EXPLAINED

Misdemeanors are "lesser" criminal acts which are generally punished less severely than felonies; but more so than infractions. Examples of misdemeanors include: DUI, petty theft, prostitution, simple assault, battery, trespass, marijuana possession, reckless driving and the like.

Some offenses can sometimes be filed as a misdemeanor, other times be a felony. Such offenses include: domestic violence, certain offenses with priors, assault with force likely to cause great bodily injury, and certain drug offenses.

In general, misdemeanors are crimes with a maximum punishment of no more than one year in a county jail. Those people who are convicted of misdemeanors are often punished with probation, fines, community service, sheriff's work program or part-time imprisonment, served on the weekends.

In California, misdemeanor convicts who are incarcerated serve their time in a county jail, whereas those convicted of a felony who are sentenced to more than one year serve their time in a prison. A skilled attorney should, in most cases, see that someone pleading to a misdemeanor avoids any incarceration. For most cases, that is with most charges, the case can be settled for such things as community service, a fine, the sheriff's work program (a jail equivalent but, in essence, community service). Often the key is presenting you as a person, not as the mistake you might have made, to the court."

When facing charges of a misdemeanor, you have many of the protections you have with a felony. You have the right to a trial in front of a jury, and can only be convicted if all 12 jurors believe that your guilt has been proven beyond any reasonable doubt.

In California, this holds true even for an offense that does not have the possible penalty of jail.

A well-qualified attorney can help you determine whether a trial is in your best interest, and can guide you through either settlement or through trial so that you can achieve the best possible outcome in your case.


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You should consult an attorney for individual advice regarding your own situation.

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