Though there are different sub-categories of each, crimes can be divided between felonies and misdemeanors. When you ask someone how they differ, you will most likely hear something similar to felonies being worse regarding the nature of the crime and the punishment that follows it. This is a pervasive belief, and although it is true, we don’t want you to underestimate how seriously a misdemeanor can impact your record and life. If you walk away with nothing else from this blog, remember this: Contact a criminal defense attorney as soon as you are charged with a crime—regardless of its severity. Criminal defense attorneys will ensure you exercise your rights and that your rights aren’t being violated.
Due to their command of the law, they may be able to get your charges dropped or reduced. Although contacting a criminal defense attorney is fundamentally important for you and your future, you should also be aware of what a misdemeanor is, how they differ from felonies, and the potential consequences of being convicted of one.
What Is a Misdemeanor?
There are four different classifications, and they may throw some people off because they are not numbered one through four. They are categorized (in order of severity) as Class A1, Class 1, Class 2, and Class 3. It is important to note that hate crimes and gang-related activities can lead to “enhanced charges.” This means you can be charged one or two classes higher than the crime you were charged with committing.
Class A1: Examples include assault with a deadly weapon, sexual battery, and child abuse. You can be sentenced to (up to)150 days in jail and a fine, which the court will determine.
Class 1: The penalty for class 1 misdemeanors is the same as Class 1A, but the jail time maxes out at 120 days. Examples include larceny, breaking and entering, and possession of drug paraphernalia.
Class 2: Examples include simple assault, reckless driving, and disorderly conduct. Unlike the previous classifications, you can be assigned up to 60 days of community service instead of jail time. Additionally, fines max out at $1000.
Class 3: Examples include shoplifting, simple possession of marijuana, and driving with a suspended license.
Consequences of a Misdemeanor
In 2017, Governor Roy Cooper, signed a new expungement law. Although that is a separate topic and issue, it highlights some long-term consequences of a misdemeanor. For instance, they used to remain on your record for fifteen years, but it has since been reduced to five. Regardless, your conviction will surface on a background check for at least five years. This could include dismissals and not-guilty verdicts. Even if and when you are eligible for an expungement, that could take 9-12 months.
The key is never to underestimate the importance of a misdemeanor on your record. Although an employer may be willing to listen to your explanation if you were charged with a crime and not convicted, a conviction could eliminate you from obtaining certain jobs. One of the reasons we listed the different classifications is that you should never assume that even a Class 3 misdemeanor won’t have a lasting impact on your life—even if you think the consequences are minor.
Make the responsible decision to contact a defense attorney when you are charged with a crime because you owe it to yourself and your future. Contact the established and trusted attorneys at Benbow, Davidson & Martin, P.C. to schedule your case evaluation.