Misdemeanors are criminal offenses that are considered to be less severe than other crimes, such as felonies. In most jurisdictions, misdemeanors are divided into several categories based on the seriousness of the crime, with more severe crimes being punished by greater penalties. Where there are three classifications of misdemeanors referred to as Classes A, B and C, a Class C misdemeanor typically is the least-serious of the three types. In some places, these categories are referred to as Class 1, Class 2 and Class 3. Other jurisdictions might have more than three categories.
Types of Crimes
The crimes that qualify as Class C misdemeanors and their accompanying penalties can vary by jurisdiction. Some examples of these crimes might include disorderly conduct, simple assault or possession of a very small amount of illegal drugs. These crimes are less severe than other types of misdemeanors but are more serious than petty offenses and ordinance violations, such as speeding, minor littering, jaywalking or playing music too loudly. Like people who commit those minor offenses, people who commit misdemeanors are subject to fines. Unlike those types of crimes, however, a Class C misdemeanor also is punishable by short-term imprisonment in some jurisdictions.
Class A misdemeanors and Class B misdemeanors carry more severe penalties, such as heavier fines and longer terms of imprisonment. In some cases, however, people who commit misdemeanors will be fined but not imprisoned, even if imprisonment is legally permitted for those crimes. Repeat offenders might be subject to more severe penalties. Unlike a felony conviction, a misdemeanor conviction typically does not result in the loss of civil rights, such as the right to vote or the ability apply for a passport.
In the court system, misdemeanors typically are treated like any other crimes. In the United States and many other countries, a person who is accused of a Class C misdemeanor is assumed to be innocent until proven guilty. The prosecutor, who represents the government or the public, has the burden of proving that the person committed the crime. These cases might be heard and decided by a judge, or a jury trial might be held.
Although they do not lose their civil rights, people who have been convicted of Class C misdemeanors — as with more serious crimes — will face some repercussions in society. Many employers require job applicants to pass criminal background checks, and a Class C misdemeanor would show up on an individual’s criminal record for at least a certain amount of time after he or she has been convicted. In some places, it would remain on the person's criminal record permanently. Other jobs might require a clean criminal record at all times, so someone who has been convicted of a Class C misdemeanor might face certain penalties or restrictions and might even lose his or her job. As a result, although the legal penalties for a Class C misdemeanor might be relatively minor, the actual penalties incurred by the convicted individual can be severe.