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What is a Misdemeanor Conviction?

A misdemeanor conviction is a legal judgment for less severe crimes than felonies, often punishable by fines or jail time under a year. It can impact job prospects, housing, and more, subtly shaping one's future. Understanding its implications is crucial. How might a misdemeanor touch your life's trajectory? Explore with us the ripple effects of such a conviction.
Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison

When a person is found guilty of a misdemeanor, he receives a misdemeanor conviction as well as any penalties that go along with it. Misdemeanors are crimes that are considered minor in a particular jurisdiction. Felonies are considered major or more serious crimes and result in felony convictions. The penalties for conviction of a misdemeanor are typically lighter than those given for felonious acts.

While misdemeanors are usually considered less serious crimes, the difference between a misdemeanor conviction and a felony conviction is often focused on the penalties involved. For example, a person may be convicted of theft, which carries certain penalties, depending on the jurisdiction in which he was convicted. If he was convicted of misdemeanor theft, he can generally expect his jail term to be shorter than if he had been convicted of felony theft. Some jurisdictions give jail sentences of less than one year for misdemeanor convictions.

Driving while intoxicated is considered a misdemeanor.
Driving while intoxicated is considered a misdemeanor.

Sometimes those convicted of misdemeanors do not receive jail sentences at all. In some cases, a judge may suspend the guilty party’s sentence as long as he doesn’t get into any additional trouble with the law. In other cases, an individual may be required to perform community service. Some misdemeanor convictions even carry monetary fines instead of or in addition to jail time.

Theft is considered a misdemeanor.
Theft is considered a misdemeanor.

For many, the idea of a misdemeanor conviction may seem less frightening and troublesome than a felony conviction, but misdemeanors can result in serious consequences. In addition to the potential for jail time, an individual may receive a permanent negative mark on his criminal record after a misdemeanor conviction. This means prospective employers may discover the conviction during a background check. Employers may be more reluctant to hire those with felony convictions, however. If the misdemeanor conviction was for something the employer considers minor, he may be willing to overlook it.

A misdemeanor conviction may result in jail time.
A misdemeanor conviction may result in jail time.

There are many types of acts that may result in a misdemeanor conviction. Among them are shoplifting, vandalism, and disorderly conduct. In some places, assault and prostitution may be considered misdemeanors as well. Often, certain types of vehicle-related acts are considered misdemeanors. For example, reckless driving and drunk driving are considered misdemeanors in some places.

Individuals charged with committing a misdemeanor may face arrest.
Individuals charged with committing a misdemeanor may face arrest.

Some countries do not categorize crimes as misdemeanors and felonies. The United States and countries with similar legal systems use these categories. In other countries, such as the United Kingdom, crimes are separated into summary and indictable offenses. A summary offense is a minor type of crime while an indictable offense is more serious.

Frequently Asked Questions

What exactly is a misdemeanor conviction?

Prostitution and soliciting prostitution are misdemeanor charges in many jurisdictions.
Prostitution and soliciting prostitution are misdemeanor charges in many jurisdictions.

A misdemeanor conviction is a legal judgment for crimes considered less severe than felonies. Misdemeanors typically involve less serious offenses such as petty theft, simple assault, or a first-time DUI. According to the United States Sentencing Commission, misdemeanors can result in penalties like fines, community service, probation, or incarceration for up to one year, usually in a local or county jail rather than a high-security prison.

How does a misdemeanor conviction differ from a felony conviction?

Prostitution is considered a misdemeanor is some places and a felony in others.
Prostitution is considered a misdemeanor is some places and a felony in others.

Misdemeanor convictions differ from felonies in terms of severity, punishment, and long-term consequences. While felonies are serious crimes that can lead to prison sentences exceeding one year, misdemeanors carry lighter sentences. The Bureau of Justice Statistics notes that felonies can also result in loss of certain civil rights, like voting or firearm possession, which are typically not affected by misdemeanor convictions. However, both can have lasting impacts on employment, housing, and more.

Can a misdemeanor conviction be expunged from my record?

Expungement of a misdemeanor conviction depends on state laws and the nature of the offense. Many states allow for expungement, which means the conviction is sealed or erased from public records. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, eligibility criteria may include completing the sentence, a waiting period without further legal trouble, and the absence of subsequent convictions. It's advisable to consult with a legal expert to understand the specific requirements in your jurisdiction.

What are the potential consequences of a misdemeanor conviction on employment?

A misdemeanor conviction can affect employment opportunities, as some employers may be hesitant to hire individuals with a criminal record. A survey by the Society for Human Resource Management found that while many employers conduct criminal background checks, the impact of a misdemeanor may vary depending on the job's requirements and the nature of the offense. It's important for applicants to understand their rights and, if applicable, the benefits of expungement.

Are there different classes or levels of misdemeanors?

Yes, misdemeanors are often categorized into different classes or levels based on the severity of the offense. For instance, Class A misdemeanors are typically the most serious, with the highest penalties, while Class C or Class III misdemeanors are less severe. The U.S. Department of Justice outlines that these classifications can influence the sentencing, with higher classes often resulting in longer jail time, larger fines, or more extensive probation requirements.

Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison

Nicole’s thirst for knowledge inspired her to become a HistoricalIndex writer, and she focuses primarily on topics such as homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. When not writing or spending time with her four children, Nicole enjoys reading, camping, and going to the beach.

Learn more...
Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison

Nicole’s thirst for knowledge inspired her to become a HistoricalIndex writer, and she focuses primarily on topics such as homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. When not writing or spending time with her four children, Nicole enjoys reading, camping, and going to the beach.

Learn more...

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Discussion Comments

starrynight

@sunnySkys - I really think as far as jobs go, it should depend on the type of job. For example, I think it would be OK for someone convicted of a felony or a misdemeanor to work in say, McDonald's.

However, I think for other jobs such as police work or the medical field, a person should have a clean record. I know that's kind of subjective, but that's what I think.

sunnySkys

Even though some employers may not look on misdemeanors as harshly as felonies, people convicted of a misdemeanor can still have a hard time finding a job.

The unemployment rate is so high that most employers have tons of applicants to pick for jobs. A misdemeanor conviction is just one more reason not to pick someone and go with someone else.

I personally think it should depend on what the crime was. I feel like certain misdemeanors aren't as serious as others.

Sunny27

@SurfNTurf - I can answer that. The expunged record cannot be unsealed, but if you commit additional crimes then the past charges can come into to play when you get charged with the new criminal offense. The prosecutors will definitely take that into consideration.

surfNturf

@GreenWeaver - Is it possible for an expunged record to be unsealed or reversed?

GreenWeaver

I read that in some states you can expunge a misdemeanor conviction but sometimes it depends on the type of misdemeanor.

For example, in Florida if you have a misdemeanor conviction for a DUI or a domestic violence charge the record cannot be expunged because the charge is considered a public hazard and the state needs to keep the record open in case there are subsequent charges in future cases.

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    • Driving while intoxicated is considered a misdemeanor.
      By: dragon_fang
      Driving while intoxicated is considered a misdemeanor.
    • Theft is considered a misdemeanor.
      By: Steve Lovegrove
      Theft is considered a misdemeanor.
    • A misdemeanor conviction may result in jail time.
      By: angelo.gi
      A misdemeanor conviction may result in jail time.
    • Individuals charged with committing a misdemeanor may face arrest.
      By: Ariusz
      Individuals charged with committing a misdemeanor may face arrest.
    • Prostitution and soliciting prostitution are misdemeanor charges in many jurisdictions.
      By: Anatoly Tiplyashin
      Prostitution and soliciting prostitution are misdemeanor charges in many jurisdictions.
    • Prostitution is considered a misdemeanor is some places and a felony in others.
      By: Borrelia
      Prostitution is considered a misdemeanor is some places and a felony in others.