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Misdemeanor

*This article is intended for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as legal advice.

The meanings of words tend to change based on their context. Such is often the case when they come up in a courtroom setting. Words the general public is typically familiar with become more complex than normal, occasionally making it difficult to understand what is being implicated when they’re used.

One such word is “misdemeanor.” While this term has popped up in several crime shows, it can sometimes be misused outside of a courtroom setting. If you perform a PeopleFinders criminal records check, and you come across the term “misdemeanor,” you need to understand its implications in full to make the most of the data with which you’ve been presented.

What is a Misdemeanor?

A misdemeanor sits between an infraction and a felony in terms of severity. They are serious crimes, but not so serious as to involve significant jail time. Most often, crimes that are categorized as misdemeanors result in the person paying a fee and facing time in a local jail. However, it is unlikely that an individual accused of a misdemeanor will be transferred to a prison or will face incarceration that lasts longer than a year.

There are several degrees of misdemeanors. These include:

  • Gross Misdemeanors – Gross misdemeanors are near-felonies. These are also known as high misdemeanors. They are more severe than the other misdemeanors, but they’re outside of the realm of severity that would otherwise classify the behavior as a felony. (Petty theft, possession of a controlled substance, and simple assault are some possible examples of high misdemeanors.)
  • Ordinary Misdemeanors – An average misdemeanor describes a crime that could be worse, but isn’t. The punishment for these misdemeanors includes less than a year of jail time and a significant fine. (Examples: prostitution, assault and battery, perjury.)
  • Petty Misdemeanors – The least significant of the misdemeanors, these crimes typically result in less than 6 months of jail time and a fine of $500 or less. (Examples: trespassing, vandalism, disorderly conduct.)

It’s worth noting that misdemeanors are considered crimes of moral turpitude. They receive this classification because they include jail time in their consequences as well as potential fines. Receiving a misdemeanor may make it more difficult for a person to find employment in the future, suggesting that it can have a significant impact on the way a person will be viewed economically and socially.

How Are Misdemeanors Addressed In Court?

Even though the consequences for misdemeanors have already been lightly outlined, these outlines don’t cover the flexibility with which a court can address the consequences of a misdemeanor. Sentencing when the defendant is accused and convicted of a misdemeanor will vary by state.

Sometimes, depending on the state and severity of the misdemeanor, a court may choose to assign a misdemeanor’s fine and a felony’s jail time to a defendant. Other times, in the case of “wobblers,” a court can choose to address a high misdemeanor as though it were a minor felony.

This sort of flexibility is unusual in the court system, in that the consequences of a person’s behavior are not set in stone. Variables can be provided, of course, and have been, but each misdemeanor is really addressed on a case-by-case and state-by-state basis.

How Are Misdemeanors Addressed on a Federal Level?

However, federal address of a misdemeanor is more set in stone. Courts operating on a federal level must abide by federal sentencing guidelines and a federal sentencing chart. This chart dictates what kind of adjustments will need to be made in the case of mitigating misdemeanor factors and how standard cases should be addressed.

According to that chart, misdemeanors need to be addressed as follows:

  • Federal Class A Misdemeanors – Gross misdemeanors are near-felonies. These are also known as high misdemeanors. They are more severe than the other misdemeanors, but they’re outside of the realm of severity that would otherwise classify the behavior as a felony. (Petty theft, possession of a controlled substance, and simple assault are some possible examples of high misdemeanors.)
  • Federal Class B Misdemeanors – An average misdemeanor describes a crime that could be worse, but isn’t. The punishment for these misdemeanors includes less than a year of jail time and a significant fine. (Examples: prostitution, assault and battery, perjury.)
  • Federal Class C Misdemeanors – The least significant of the misdemeanors, these crimes typically result in less than 6 months of jail time and a fine of $500 or less. (Examples: trespassing, vandalism, disorderly conduct.)

Any judgment that rules that the defendant should serve fewer than five days in jail will be known as a federal infraction after the case has concluded.

What Does It Mean If a Misdemeanor Appears on a Criminal Records Report?

If a misdemeanor appears during a PeopleFinders criminal records check, the explanation is fairly straightforward. The subject of the check will have been accused of a misdemeanor or a middling crime that would not have resulted in more than a year of jail time. You’ll need to read the check in more detail to understand what exactly the defendant was accused of and whether or not the court ended up ruling in favor of the misdemeanor classification.